I never ran so fast in my life


 

As I ran for my life through the parking lot, half coughing from a sinus cold and half out of breath, I reached inside my tote bag to pull out my phone. I should call my husband, I thought to myself. 


“The pool was emergency evacuated,” I manage to scream out in between gasping for air.

“Slow, down,” said my husband. “What’s going on?”


I looked around the hotel parking lot and realized I was the only person in a sea of cars. I wondered if there was an active shooter inside. Or a bomb threat. Was I safe in the parking lot alone? What if I was going to get kidnapped? Was this a life changing crisis? I had no defense and wished I had my personal alarm in my hands.


Of course something like this would happen after I just did a leg workout in the pool. I can’t run under normal conditions and here I was fearing for my life, just praying I would make it to my car.


As I safely reached my car near the front of the hotel, I noticed the other guests beginning to make their way out the front doors. I had escaped from the pool door in the basement, out through the outside resort gate that is usually off limits for exits.


“I’m in my car,” I gasped and threw my phone on the passenger seat without even ending the call.


My hands shaking, I drove home. I passed police cars all headed towards the hotel as my head raced with thoughts about what had just happened. This was my first time in a situation of panic, where I had to evacuate a public place due—totally alone.


This was too much to handle before 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning. My family and I had been passing a nasty cold back and forth for weeks and that morning I was feeling better and decided I was going to get back into my workout routine and early morning laps in the pool. My seven-year-old son was awake but didn’t want to join me. Looking back, I am so grateful he stayed home because I would have been even more terrified if I had a child to protect in this situation.


For some reason, I stayed a few minutes longer resting my muscles in the hot tub. When I went to the locker room, I saw a mom changing her baby. Behind my changing room curtain, I heard a siren noise as I was putting on my second shoe and shoving my wet bathing suit into my bag. I figured the baby was playing with a toy cop car and flashed back to the days when my kids were babies. But then the “toy” started to talk and as I emerged from the dressing area, I saw was alone in the locker room. Then I realized the voice was coming from a recording over the hotel sound system.


“Everyone, evacuate the building,” the voice said. “This is an emergency situation. Head to the nearest exit.”


Panicking, I headed into the gym lobby into a flurry of people rushing to the elevators. Should I follow them, I wondered? The elevators to the first floor would not be safe if something was happening in the hotel entrance. I didn’t want to take the stairs either because I didn’t know where they led.


The nearest exit was actually in the pool room through the door that exits onto the outside resort where there’s an outdoor pool. The only problem was I wasn’t sure if that outdoor gate would be locked. But I’ve seen employees come and go and decided to take a risk.

I rushed to the pool room where swim class families and hotel guests could not hear the muffled sound of the emergency recording between splashing. One mom was trying to make out the sounds and I told her to evacuate. She yelled to everyone else.


I made my way around the pool. With one hand on the door to the hotel and the other on the outdoor gate, I pushed and the gate opened! I had a way out! 

 

That’s when I ran as fast as my orthopedically challenged feet could handle.


This was one of those life-defining moments that made me wonder why I went swimming that morning, stayed as long as I did, and got out to change when I did. Why did the universe send me there? What would have happened if I had my kids with me? If something bad happened to me?


I drove home with these thoughts in my mind and pulled into my driveway where my kids were waiting outside for me. I shed some tears as I hugged them.


I called the hotel later that day to see what happened and they said they had no information. Later, on Facebook, someone commented on my post that it was a pulled fire alarm. I don’t know the truth, but I do know that I will never forget that experience.


I’m proud of myself for thinking clearly and getting out as fast as I could. I also came home and ordered a new personal safety alarm (I love Birdie). It’s not much, but it’s a small layer of protection that I can use if I am ever in need.


Coming out of that, I thought about how happy I am that I chase my dreams and have no regrets in life. You never know what could happen on a normal day. So it’s important that we cherish all the small things and always chase joy and what makes us happy.



 

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