May 18, 2012, CHICAGO, IL.
The Tribune, the Sun-Times, and WGN had warned us about the coming NATO Summit. They warned us of the protesters who were stockpiling human excrement to unleash on the police, the danger of having our wireless connections hijacked, the hair-trigger Chicago police, and the mayhem that would surely engulf and raze the Windy City to smoking rubble. They warned us to stay out of downtown, they warned us not to wear suits lest we be mistaken for targets/Visiting Dignitaries. Many of us did not heed the warnings. This, originally published as it unfolded on Facebook, is one survivor’s story of the Chicago NATO Summit Apocalypse.
It’s Day 1, and the sense of wrongness in the air is tangible. It’s like walking through invisible, greasy smoke. I can see downtown Chicago in the distance from the train platform. It is surrounded by a blood red haze. But the highway… Traffic is going the wrong way. Gods help us, it’s going the wrong way.
The lights are out in the subway. The only illumination comes from my phone. The train car is rocking, but I have no sense of moving forward. The air is becoming thin. I need my Ventolin. I wish I could see the sun.
I found a sewer line to escape. Made it to the surface. Update later, when I can clean up.
I escaped the subway station in a sewer pipe. The rats seemed afraid of something, not me. There was a dead man on the street near my office; his head was twisted completely around. Everybody is ignoring him. Why is the sky so red?
A colleague logged onto the internet over unsecured Wi-Fi and his laptop exploded. There isn’t enough of him to bury.
A man with a “peace” sign on his t-shirt is sitting in the middle of the street, covered in filth, beside an empty barrel. He is weeping. Protestors have been stockpiling urine and feces for months in preparation for today. The only saving grace is that they didn’t think through how to transport it.
I made it to the elevator, and turned to see a man across the lobby running towards me, clutching a piece of paper to his chest. “He has Facebook stock!” someone shouted. “The One Percent! Get him!” They swarmed like angry hornets. I let the elevator doors close. The look on his face haunts me. It was just a restaurant menu in his hand. Just a menu.
The protestors are filming the cops. The cops are filming the protestors. Passers-by are filming them both, and each other. Every eye is watching through a recording lens, waiting for someone to slip up. Waiting to capture the flashpoint. To document the beginning of the end.
They’ve hijacked my signal. All my Anytime Minutes are gone. The Sun Times warned me to use land lines only. But it makes no difference now. They’re not just shutting down the cell towers. Oh my gods… they’re tearing them down. THEY’RE TEARING DOWN THE TOWERS.
We were all warned not to wear a suit downtown during the summit, but one of our sales execs had a live pitch meeting in the West Loop. He pulled a hoodie over his jacket and covered himself with a shabby overcoat. He shambled past the milling protesters to the street corner where he could hail a cab. But as he stood there, some of the protesters were eyeing his shiny leather shoes. From the 15th floor window, I could see the agitation spread through the crowd, angry ripples centered on his business attire. The cab came too late. I remember he would always make a fresh pot of coffee whenever he took the last cup. Not many execs do that.
Email just came in, addressed to all employees:
Good Afternoon - I have just been notified by the building that protesters have gathered on Wacker and Michigan. Arrests have been made. Your safety is our #1 concern so I advise everyone in the office to avoid the building's Wacker exits. You should exit via South Water Street or Stetson. Please be careful when exiting the office.
The fighting is inside the building. The announcement went out just before power was cut to the elevators. I don’t know if the underground Pedway system will be salvation, or a death trap. Either way, I have to move NOW.
The Pedway is choked with the bodies of the dead and dying. I’ll have to find another way.
My gods, I saw one. A NATO Dignitary. Under the eerie red sky, he was striding through the crowd, chest, shoulders and head above the tallest protester. His arms stretched impossibly far, and his too-long fingers coiled around someone’s neck. His jaw unhinged like a python, and… I’m no hero. I ran.
The media was right. They wear suits. Tell everyone — you will know them by their suits.
This isn’t me. I give my seat to old ladies on the train, I don’t grab them by the arm and pull them off to make room to board. What has this Summit done to me? What have I become?
6:55pm, final entry.
I’ve escaped. Back in my neighborhood, far from downtown, the sun is shining and the sky is a soft, powdery blue. Birds chirp, a dog barks, and the scent of lilacs fills the air. My daughter plays in the garden. Here, one could believe that all the hype and worry over the Summit was overblown. One could almost believe that life will go on.