Sometimes we learn things because we read it or hear it somewhere. Sometimes we learn wisdom from friends or people who are close to us. Sometimes we learn from doing stupid things. This story is one of those cases.
This story happened in Tiraspol, Moldova which is in Eastern Europe. I remember it was a Saturday. My dad, Kristina, and I were at church. We were there because it was one of those days when church members help clean and fix the church and church grounds.
Our church building is not big. It is probably about 150 meters squared. It has only a large hall and two rooms. It is a one story building, in a classic Russian style. It has a small courtyard and a small parking lot for about thirty cars. Behind the parking lot are two ten-story high unfinished apartment buildings. These buildings are very important in my story. After the Soviet Union fell apart, there was no company that wanted to finish the apartments, so they are standing there to this day. The buildings are like every building built during Soviet times. They look like an ugly gray box of concrete. Often, me and the guys would climb to the roof of the building and fool around. You can see all of Tiraspol from that roof.
That day we swept floors, chopped down old trees, and also painted doors and window frames. The church was also getting ready to put in tile in the courtyard, so we had to break up the asphalt that was there before. My job was to break the asphalt, and dig a hole for water drainage.
We all worked, cleaned, swept, and dug until lunch time. After we ate, my dad left to buy something for the church. We on the other hand were just resting. I remember thinking that it would be fun to climb to the roof of the unfinished apartment building. So, I find a guy named Edward to go with me. We were going to leave, when my sister, who had never been up on the roof of that building, decided she wanted to go. I thought to myself, “She has never been up there and it is pretty dangerous, but I’ve been up there many times before… What is the worst that can happen? “
The adults didn’t like us kids going in there because there have been a few dead bodies found in that building. Maybe it is a place where the mafia drops off their dead. Who knows? If you do, you will probably be killed anyway. Don’t ask questions.
We crossed the parking lot and entered the building from the back. We climbed the bare concrete stairs until we reached the tenth floor. Then we had to get on the roof. That part is tricky. Usually to get on the roof of a Soviet apartment building, there is a ladder on the tenth floor to the roof. In these buildings, either the ladders weren’t put in, or someone stole them long ago. Anyways, to get to the roof you have to jump up and grab a ledge. Then you have to pull up with your arms and legs till you can grab another ledge. So we did that. Then I pulled my sister up and helped her.
Once on the roof, I turned around and my sister was behind me. Then she wasn’t. I hear Edward say, “Kristina just fell.” I say, “What?” I turn around. My sister had been behind me, but apparently she just fell through a hole in the roof.
To be honest, I don’t think I have ever been in a really stressful or emergency situation before this incident. I had not known what I am like under pressure. I have to say I am proud of my reaction and my attitude. I remember looking down the hole. Kristina had fallen through the roof, onto the landing of the tenth floor and bounced down onto the ninth floor stairs. At one moment I was looking at her, and then I was beside her. Only a few seconds must have passed.
I remember all the thoughts running through my head. Thoughts that even today I contemplate. Thoughts that gave me nightmares for the longest time. At first Kristina wasn’t moving which scared me. Then I breathed a sigh of relief when she finally moved. I saw a cut above her left eye. There was also a wound by her left temple. I quickly applied pressure to the wounds. By this time, Edward was right beside me. I told him to go get towels and some water. He ran down the stairs to do that. Kristina wasn’t breathing yet. The breath must have been knocked out of her, because she was gasping for air and not getting it. Finally she started breathing. And then came the crying. She had a bewildered look on her face. She must not have known what happened. Even though I knew she probably wouldn’t understand me, I told her, “You fell off the roof. You are okay.” I hugged her. She started crying less. I know how serious head injuries can be. I prayed, “Please God, let her be ok.” Just to make sure she was ok, I asked her, “What is your name?” She said, “Kristina.” Oh good, she knows who she is! I ask if she knows her address and phone number. She does. Thank God! She has stopped crying. The bleeding has stopped. I put my hand away from her head. My hands are covered in blood. “Are you ok to go downstairs?” I asked. “Yes.” She says. I helped her walk down the stairs. Her motor skills seemed to be fine. When we got downstairs, Edward was there with water and a piece of cloth. I cleaned Kristina up, wiped the blood off her head and face. Thank Goodness she is ok!
Now that everything looked ok, the feelings of worry went away. Now I felt the self hate. “Why did you HAVE to go up there? AND you took Kristina? Are you an idiot? I am going to have to tell my dad? Oh, the disappointment in his eyes will kill me. “
We walked to the church, and then called dad. He came and took Kristina to the hospital. Turns out she had a concussion. She was in the hospital for eight days. So Kristina has had no serious problems with her head. She always said, it is not my fault she fell, but the guilt is still there.
I ask myself, “What did I learn?” “DON’T DO STUPID THINGS! Don’t take foolish risks. If you know something might be dangerous, at least make sure you do it as safely as possible, or just don’t do it all. And if you do something stupid, don’t drag others into it. That way if anything happens, you are the one answering for yourself. The other thing I learned from this experience is that I am cool under pressure. This made me realize something about myself I never knew. And that is always a good thing.