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The Shout That Saved Me

I heard him call my name…

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In northeast Scotland, where I live, the Gulf Stream brings warmth to what would otherwise be a frigid climate—but it can also cause high winds. One day the weather service reported gusts topping 100 miles an hour. I almost blew away when I left for work that morning.

Fortunately, I would be spending most of my day inside at my new job assisting John, a mortgage and financial services broker. I sat at my desk, looking out the large front window, awed by the sheer power of Mother Nature. Were the brick chimneys of the old houses around us actually swaying? Historic Flemish buildings from the eighteenth century lined our street, and our office was a “gable ender,” a one-story house down a long alleyway surrounded by taller residences.

“I don’t like the way that old chimney is moving about,” John said. So my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” I said. “These places have outlasted centuries of winds worse than this.”

John disappeared around the corner into our tiny kitchen. I picked up my pen and got to work, entering appointments into his desk diary.

“Joyce?” I heard John call.

“Yes?” I said. There was no response.

I got up and walked down the hall to see what he wanted. Just as I turned into the kitchen…. Boom! Smash! I heard the most deafening crash. It felt like the whole building was going to collapse around us. John and I huddled against the wall. Finally the rumbling stopped. We gathered up the courage and made our way to the front of the office.

The chimney stack of the building across the alley had tumbled down and smashed through the window by my desk. Shattered glass everywhere, bricks strewn across the desktop. I moved one of the bricks. Underneath was a black smudge on the desk—where the pen I’d been using had been flattened. John and I stood in shock.

I broke the silence. “John, I don’t know what to say. If you hadn’t called me, I would have been hurt.”

John stared at me, confused. “But I didn’t call you. It was a surprise when you came into the kitchen.”

Surprise wasn’t quite the word I would use.

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