Will didn’t stop. Not while it was happening, not after it had happened, and not after all the others –the ones who were left- just stood and stared, transfixed at the site of so much destruction. He didn’t stop. He couldn’t stop. There was more at stake here. More than just one man – one soul. He almost felt he didn’t have a choice. He reached the mangled doors and pried his way into the half-collapsed building. Frantically he scanned the room, looking for someone, anyone who might have survived. One body was slumped over the banister at the foot of the stair case. Clearly the person had been trying to get out of the building. As he moved closer Will saw it was the body of a woman, a young woman. Younger than him. He moved on. Normally he would have stayed with the body, but this situation was anything but normal. The fire department had only been called a moment ago, when he and others saw what was happening. Soon there would be others. More and more. More calls, more pleads for help than anyone could process. Some from the inside of the building, desperate family members placing what may be their last phone calls to their loved ones. Some would make it. Far, far fewer than their should be. There shouldn’t have been any deaths at all, rather; there shouldn’t be any survivors at all. There can’t be survivors when there aren’t any deaths.
Will moved on. For the first time his fear, and the realisation of the situation took hold over him. He froze, almost panicked, and then his training kicked in. He closed his eyes, breathed slowly, rhythmically. He opened his eyes again and contemplated going up the stairs. He had no idea how the structural integrity of the building had been weakened. The stairs could collapse if he tried to go up. The elevator was out of the question. Even if it was working, it wouldn’t allow him to search as thoroughly as he wanted to. He decided to stick to the ground floor. Help would arrive shortly; they would be able to better decide if it was worth the risk. Will may have had the training to keep himself calm and focused for the time being, but what he lacked was resources and numbers. He moved to the lobby, with no idea what he would find and not the slightest fathom of what was to come of that day.
No one ever saw Will leave the building. What they did see was survivor after survivor limping out. Sometimes through the dusty, cracked windows, they could make out the silhouette of a man supporting them, making sure they made it out before turning back to the lobby to help more. The fire department showed up soon afterwards, and anyone who had stayed close enough to the building stopped seeing the silhouette in the window. More survivors came, but Will stopped helping them to the door. One last survivor made it out of the building before no more could come, before the entire area was coated in dust. He told about coming down the stairs to see a man waving him to the exit, only the man was half buried under debris, desperately digging to get to another man. That was the last time anyone ever saw William Thomas Cotter. The man whose instincts made him race towards the danger instead of the haven. The man who helped prove that in the world we lived in, and in the changed world that was to follow this fateful day, heroes still lived. They live among us, and inside us. In the most cynical and the most resentful of us still lives the part that yearns for salvation, both for ourselves and for others. In our darkest times, remember the differences and the sacrifices made on that day.