I get out of my Physics lab at a quarter to four. I decide to walk across campus to the gym so I can practice some of my handball moves. I have a tournament coming up on Saturday and I want to win at least one game. As I walk across Kafadar Commons, a large grassy field in the middle where students can often be found playing Ultimate, I look up to see two news helicopters. In city like Seattle, I would think nothing of it. But I’m in Golden, and 9News doesn’t spend $12,500 an hour (or however much it costs) to take pretty pictures of Golden.
The fact that there is not one, but two helicopters assures me of the fact that something big is indeed happening. I make a slight detour to the library which is right next to the gym. I quickly hop on one the computers and go to 9News web page. In big red letters at the top of the page:
Breaking News: Fire at Old Capital Grill on 12th & Washington.
Screw handball practice.
I race down the library steps and run back across campus to my house. A third helicopter has joined the other two, and the trio circle above the fire like vultures. My Dad calls me on the way back:
“How’s the fire?”
“I’m about to head over there right now. How did you know?”
“You’re not in Colorado, are you?”
“No, but I get the news alerts.”
I race into my house and grab my camera, making sure my memory card is in. Nothing like wanting to take pictures but having no place to store them. As I walk out, I stop in Chris’s room, which is right across from mine. Chris, Ben, and Jens are all watching the news on Chris’s TV. I now see through the eyes of the helicopters that I was just looking up at a moment ago.Flames and smoke, lots of smoke. Chris and Jens want to go down, I ask Jens if he’s going to take his car (we’re on 19th and Washington, but time is of the essence). He points out that the police have already arrived and are closing off the streets. He makes a good point.
I grab my bike and take off towards the fire, riding into the sunset at the same time. As I reach the crest of the small hill that sits between our house and the fire, I begin to see the billowing smoke pouring from the roof of the Old Capital Grill.I pedal hard, desperate to get there before I miss something. I get within a block of the fire and park my bike, locking it to one of the wooden pylons supporting the eves that hang over the downtown Golden sidewalks. I take out my camera and cautiously make my way toward the fire. A group of reporters is already present and hang around them, hoping to blend into the crowd of reporters. The fact that I have a $1000 dollar digital SLR camera doesn’t hurt and probably helps me look just that much more professional. A camera man from Fox 31 asks who I’m with. I politely respond that I’m with the Colorado School of Mines. Which is actually slightly true. I used to be the News Editor for The Oredigger last year and this year I’m the Chief Engineer for our radio station, Mines Internet Radio. I make a mental note to make that Press Pass I’ve been thinking about.
I’m now directly across the street from the fire, although it’s more smoke now than fire. The smoke comes in waves as the Golden All-Volunteer Fire Department beats the fire down. I zip up my REI fleece jacket to the collar and hunch down, hoping that the polyester fibers will afford me some protection from the smoke that begins to encompass us.
I carefully move to the other side of the street. The Press Representative spots me and asks me join the press group back on the other side of the street. I quickly oblige.
The fire is contained some thirty minutes after I arrive. I hang around for another twenty minutes or so, waiting to see what will happen next. But the sun has set behind the mountains and it’s getting dark and cold. The crowd has started to dissipate and I’m quickly loosing interest.I call Dad back and tell him how close I was. A stranger sees my camera and asks to see some of the pictures. He ask me if I know what started it. I shake my head and show him the pictures on my camera’s little screen. In all likelihood, this will be the most exciting thing to happen on/near campus all year. I begin my trek back, basking in the fact that I was there.