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Alice Yang
Yang is a contributing columnist for the Fort Bend Star.
She is a student at Stephen F. Austin High School-FBISD.

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.
The Great Chicago Fire  

Summer has officially come to an end. For me, it was three incredible months of working, sleeping, learning, sleeping, traveling, and of course, sleeping. It was a blast. A bang. A flaming load of fun.


A couple of weeks ago, I went to Chicago to visit some colleges and to just see the magnificent city( No exaggeration here, Chicago is officially the world’s most beautiful city. Sorry Houston). Mom, being Chinese, forty, and therefore crazily economical, decided to room us in an international hostel instead of the five-star Hilton across the street.

But I have to say, though the price was cheap, the hostel was definitely not. It was a well-kept ten-story modernist building that fit right in with the landscape of downtown Chicago’s sea of amazing architectural creations. The people there were all eager to help plan your sight-seeing route, and though you bunk with five other people, the room was clean, capacious, and comfortable.

So after several days there, I got used to sleeping on the top bunk, hearing the city talk at night, and chatting up fellow roomies, whom by the way were all very interesting. One lady from Santa Monica was visiting some relatives and always came back to the room around four in the morning. Funny thing was, she used to be a Metro bus driver in Chicago and just moved a few years ago. After hearing this, mom hounded her with questions about which buses to take, and she patiently helped us map our whole transportation route.

Another woman came to catch a play that her niece was in. She was a glamorous little lady who slept with satin jammies on her body and hot rollers in her hair. And then there was a Chinese student from Shanghai who planned to go to Saint Louis for college but got deterred from her route because one of the trains crashed in Chicago. So anyway, as you can see, I roomed with an eclectic bunch of people who each had an interesting story.

One night, while deep in sleep after a whole day’s exhausting walk downtown, I suddenly heard a loud echoing siren coming from the ceiling. I first thought my ears were hallucinating, but suddenly the lady across from me bolted up from bed too. In my groggy state, I dimly realized it was a fire alarm.

Then in surreal composure I climbed down the bunk ladder and gathered all our precious things from the locker. Now everyone in the room was up and scrambling to decide what to take and what to leave behind. That was a crazy moment, the moment when you decide what could be left to burn and what you had to carry away. Mom and I quickly took the video camera and our purses and decided to leave all the luggage since they would be very cumbersome in the chaos of a great fire.

The poor lady next to me in her hot-rollers and lacy satin slip was trembling to open her locker. At last, with a sigh, she was in such a panic that she couldn’t even remember her locker combination and walked out of the room without anything.

Bathed in the lurid light of the hallway, hundreds of people swarmed out of all the doors, women with mint-green facial masks, men without shirts with sleep marks on their chest; it was comical really, to see these strangers in their most vulnerable, blood-shot, three-o-clock-in-the-morning disposition. I swear, about fifty of us crammed into that little elevator while the rest flew down the stairs. However, just when we got to ground floor, the sirens suddenly stopped.

In the main lobby, a hostel full of bed-headed people in colorful pajamas eyed the receptionist for an explanation. Cornered, he gave a nervous, wavery smile and told us that it was just a false alarm. All of us stared in disbelief, and I even heard some curse words in the back; but in the end, we trudged back to our rooms feeling very annoyed. When I got back to bed, I saw the poor little lady again trying to remember her locker combination. This time, she finally was able to open it.

So there’s the highlight of my summer. Although the fire never occurred, the experience was exciting enough.

Yang is a contributing columnist for the Fort Bend Star. She is a student in FBISD.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006