Skate Disaster

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2001

By Alex Chan-Kai, Illustrated by Alicia Betancourt

I woke up as a small gap of light beamed into my eyes from a hole in the curtain. I opened my bedroom window to see what kind of a day it was. The sun was radiating on my face, but the only thing I could feel was the heat. There was not even the slightest breeze in the air; it gave me a strange feeling. My house is near the ocean, so I was accustomed to early morning breezes. But today the air was as still as a stagnant pond. I continued to look out my bedroom window, and I was pleased to see that there was not a cloud in the sky. I knew that it would be a perfect day for skateboarding. Even though the day was nice and sunny, something tugged at my mind, but I could not put my finger on it. I had an uneasy feeling that seemed to consume my thoughts.

As I continued to stare out onto the empty street, I noticed something very strange. Usually on a Saturday morning, all the dogs on the street are barking, wandering around, or even terrorizing a few cats. Today, not a bark could be heard, or a single dog could be seen. I could not imagine where all the dogs could be hiding. It was almost like something was going to happen, but I could not figure out what. Despite my uneasy feelings, I was determined to have a good day.

Skate Disaster boy waking up

As I continued to stare out onto the empty street, I noticed something very strange

I jumped into my favorite pair of cargo pants, threw on my blue Tech Deck shirt, and slipped into a comfortable pair of black Emericas. I tossed the cat over my shoulder, and we both bounced down the stairs to get a bite to eat. As I was shoving a bacon-and-cheese breakfast sandwich into my mouth, I flipped on my favorite television show, “Junkyard Wars.” I was just getting settled into my chair when a news flash rudely interrupted my program. A reporter appeared and announced that several small earthquakes had rattled a town, just twenty-seven miles away. He said that these quakes measured 4.1 on the Richter scale, and that not much damage was done to the local structures. I watched the news report and thought about the last time a quake had hit our little town of Aptos. We hadn’t had one since 1989. But that quake shook the area tremendously and caused a ton of damage. It was measured at 7.1 on the Richter scale. I was only a few months old, so this quake did not even faze me. But believe me, I heard all about it from my parents. They won’t ever forget the rocking, rolling, and rumbling of that quake.

The blaring ring of the telephone interrupted my thoughts. I jumped up from the couch and grabbed my cordless phone. “Hello,” I blurted into the receiver.

“Hey, Alex, what’s happening?” said my best friend Tim.

“I am not up to much, except for watching a dumb news report about an earthquake. Do you want to go to the skate park today?” I said with enthusiasm.

“Sure, I’ll drop by at around ten,” Tim confirmed his plans.

“I will see you then, dude,” I answered and quickly hung up the phone.

Tim showed up a few minutes early. I knew he was ready to get going because he didn’t even notice my new PlayStation 2. Tim never passes up a chance to play a video game, but today his mind was on skating. Tim just got a Zero skateboard for his birthday, and he was dying to try it out.

We were both out the door in a flash and started our one-mile trip to the park on our skateboards. A slight breeze kicked up and brushed against our faces as we rolled along the sidewalks. We noticed that there weren’t too many people outside, and the dogs weren’t chasing us as usual.

When we got to the skate park entrance, we noticed a huge line of kids waiting to get inside. The line wrapped around the block, so we had to cut across the Kmart parking lot in order to get to the end of the line.

“How long is it going to take us to get into this park?” I said to Tim with a frustrated look on my face.

“We could be out here for hours, Alex,” complained Tim.

After about an hour, Tim and I finally made our way through the entrance gate of the park. There were skaters everywhere, and we were having a hard time finding a spot to skate on the half pipe. Every time we come to this park, Tim and I always skate on the half pipe, but since there was not room to skate there, we proceeded to a small, enclosed area where we could grind. We could spend hours grinding on our skateboards, so I knew that we’d be in this area of the park for quite a while.

Tim and I were having a blast, and we didn’t want the day to end. I knew that I had to be home for supper at six, so we only had an hour more of skating. We left the grinding room and ran over to the skating bowl, which is a large metal bowl that is enclosed by a cement wall. The skaters like to do tricks in the bowl—nose grinds, 360s, 180s, hard flips, and bumping.

I looked at the clock. It was 5:05 PM. A strange feeling came over me, but I didn’t know why. I ignored the feeling and glided up the side of the bowl to show Tim how well I could do a hard flip. Just as I was ready to turn, I lost my balance and fell to the ground. I got up off the ground, stood on my board, but something strange was happening all around me. The other skaters were moving back and forth, the cement wall was swaying, and I could feel the ground trembling beneath my feet. At first I did not know what was happening, but then it dawned on me that an earthquake was taking place.

I could hear all the skaters scream, and most of them were trying to run for the exit. I looked around for Tim, but he was nowhere to be found. I was scared half to death, because the tremor shook harder, and I could hear wood snapping and metal crashing to the ground. I ran for cover and crouched under a small cement ramp. I did not want to run for the door, because I was afraid that a beam or one of the walls might come crashing down on me. I was so worried about Tim; I wondered what could have happened to him.

“Get the heck out of here, now,” screamed one of the employees. “The building might collapse at any moment,” he continued, as he motioned for the skaters to leave through the exit.

I slowly moved my body from underneath the ramp and crawled on my hands and knees to the center of the room. Just as I was getting ready to stand, a huge beam from the ceiling crashed down and fell on my leg. I was trapped, and the pain pierced through my body like a million stabbing needles. I could not move; I was paralyzed with fear.

I was lying in the bowl, and I knew that I was very hurt. One thought kept running through my mind. How will I survive in this bowl if no one finds me for such a long time. I need food and water, but there is no way to get it. I was so hungry at this point, I even thought about eating my board.

I couldn’t hear a soul around. The building was empty; I could have heard a pin drop. As I was looking up at the ceiling and wondering what I could do to help myself, I suddenly realized that I had a few chocolate peanut-butter cups in my pocket. I grabbed for one, but left the other one in its place in case I was stranded for a long time. I quickly popped the savory nugget in my mouth and savored the goodness of the rich peanut-buttery chocolate. It did not really quench my hunger, but anything tasted good at that moment.

Skate Disaster boys skating

I glided up the side of the bowl to show Tim how well I could do a hard flip

Suddenly, I heard a faint knock on the side of the bowl. I could barely make out the quivering noise that followed, but it sure sounded like, “Help! I need help!” The voice sounded a bit familiar, but I didn’t think that would be possible.

“Who are you? Are you in trouble?” I responded back to the voice.

“It is Tim. Please help me get out of here,” said the voice frantically.

I suddenly felt a warm rush of happiness fill my body, because I knew that my friend was safe from harm. “It is me, Tim. This is Alex, and I am very hurt. A beam from the ceiling fell on my leg, and I cannot move. If you can, Tim, try and use your skateboard to chisel a hole through the bowl,” I said in desperation.

“I was just knocked out by a falling beam, so maybe I can help you. I will try and chisel my way over to you, so I can help the two of us get out of here,” Tim reassured me.

Tim worked for hours on his chiseling and smashing the bowl. This was the only way he could make his way over to me, since we were both trapped by the bowl.

I was beginning to lose hope with Tim’s efforts, when he finally made his last crashing blow to the side of the bowl, and the last piece fell to the side to open up a crawl hole. Tim slid through the hole and collapsed by my side. “I am exhausted, Alex. That took such a long time to get through that bowl. Now what do we do to get you out of here?” said Tim hopelessly.

Tim pulled and tugged at the beam, while I pushed with all my strength to help him. Our efforts worked, and I finally was able to dislodge my body from under the wooden obstruction.

Tim and I trudged tediously through the fallen debris and tried our hardest to find a glimpse of the exit sign. A faint light shone dimly about ten yards away. We kept plugging away through the rubble on the floor: broken windows, chunks of wood, scraps of metal, slabs of cracked cement, smashed ramp boards and ramp parts, and fallen beams.

Finally, Tim yelled at the top of his lungs, “Look, Alex!! There is the exit sign, just a few more feet ahead. Keep going. We have to get out of here,” said Tim, out of breath.

We made it to the exit sign, and just as we were walking through the door, an aftershock rocked the building once again. Tim and I made our way and turned back to look at the rocking building. Within seconds, the skate park building crumbled down to pieces, and not a single bit of the structure remained standing.

“Wow!! Did you see that? We barely made it out in time. We would have been killed in there,” I said in a sigh of relief.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mom running over across the park lawn. She was waving her hands and yelling to me. “Alex, we have been looking for you for the last four hours, and we have been so scared,” she told me, trying to catch her breath.

“Mom, we are OK. We finally made if out of that building. I have never been so scared in my life,” I said, with a scared look on my face.

“Let’s go home and get something to eat,” my mom suggested.

“That sounds like a good idea,” I responded to my mother.

I turned around and looked at the destroyed building and thought to myself that I should listen to the news more carefully. The next time a news reporter warns me about an earthquake, or any disaster, I will stay at home for the day.

Skate Disaster Alex Chan-Kai

Alex Chan-Kai, 11
Aptos, California

Skate Disaster Alicia Betancourt

Alicia Betancourt, 12
Silver Spring, Maryland

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