I woke up just in time to see everyone running out of the conference center. I pick up my bag as adrenaline pumps into my system and joined the race. My heart pumped faster and my legs did all the work with one aim. Escape!
Okay, this was what happened, I had gone to the vigil the other night with excitement, the long-awaited concert was in two days. Every hand was on deck as we put finishing touches to our songs and its arrangements. It was 2:00 in the morning, the choirmaster also added some new song to the list of songs we will be singing during the youth concert which we had to practice and perfect. By the time we were done with the practice, the day was already breaking, my eyelids were heavy and I looked around for a good position to rest my head.
Unknowingly, that very morning a gasoline tanker drove into the filling station opposite the church secretariat’s building where we were having the practice. It later became clear to us that the station had been short of gas some few hours since the previous day. Unclear to anyone but speculatively, immediately the tanker came in, the attendants started discharging the loaded tanker. One thing led to the other but all I saw was fire, the flames were so high up in the air it was as though a 3-storey building was ablaze. Here and there everyone went in the early hours of day break. The smell of gasoline mingled with the distress in the atmosphere. I stormed out of the building I was in to the secretariat’s compound with just one leg of my sandals. There was commotion everywhere, the residential quarters in the secretariat’s compound had two elderly women living there, they were helped out. I peeped outside the gate, the whole street was running down the slope at the end of the street. Due to the geographic terrains, the church and the gas station are sited at the tip of a sloppy runway, running down into a creek. I raced down amidst others, some residents of the environment tried moving valuables out of their houses, not being sure the extent of damage the fire will cause.
Suddenly, “Boom!” A loud noise came from the tanker, a great explosion it was, causing the gasoline to gush out of the tanker from all side causing the gasoline flowed down the hill. Unsurprisingly, the fire followed the fuel. With a fireball running down the road at an incredible speed, everybody fled for their life. The noise of mothers screaming names of their children, children crying for the lack of comprehension of the entire dilemma, store owners lamenting at the extent of damage the ongoing fire was causing already. The noise dampened the siren of the fire truck making it’s way to the sight everyone was fleeing from. The fire truck stopped close to where I was and the firemen jumped down from the carriage, each man proceeded into the flames, especially house with trapped people inside, hiding their fears beneath the heavy fire protective coat they were putting on.
With six houses burning the number of fire hostages increased, as we could not cross the creek and the route out of the street is was at the top where there were high flames and fireballs rolling off, this became even more scary. I saw a fireman crawling on the ground, he looked wounded, the smoke made it impossible for me to understand his hand gestures. Three men standing close to him figured out he probably needed help. They ran into the thick fumes and came back shouting. Apparently, there was a gas pipeline close to the creek and it was already heated up making the only way out was through the fumes.
The wounded fireman told us to cover our noses with a wet cloth, we all filed along a building, then passed through a wall they had broken earlier for us to link the other side, he led us all through the hot fume into safety. I couldn’t but think of the humanitarian service the man did despite being wounded, he ensured all the fire hostages (I inclusive) were safe. Men like this might not be honored as a hero. But he was my hero.