Lunch was over. We had decide what to do. We had come so far and were so close but hadn't really accomplished our goal. We still couldn't get in the building. We had already decided we needed to start back by 4:00 PM or risk getting out stuck out in the country in the dark. We were burning daylight.
The broken door didn't lead all the way into the building. We stood around for a while trying to get up enough courage to actually break into the building. With all the firepower around I was very concerned we could have a serious problem. We had just about decided to do it. We were looking for a tool. Suddenly one of the building guys showed up in his pickup, with a generator, a pump, lights, and most importantly keys. He let us in.
He apologized for not being able to go with us but he had other stuff to do. I didn't care, we were in and we didn't have to break anything. I was relieved we all wouldn't be shot as looters. Now all we had to do was climb about twenty floors of stairs (in the dark), find some computers (in the dark), gather all the necessary pieces and carry them all back down almost twenty floors (in the dark). Piece of cake.
The building was a mess. It had taken some flood water, not much, only about twelve inches from the water marks on the glass. But the first floor was still very wet and the water had left behind a thin coating of slippery, slimy mud. The basement was full to the level of the first floor, you couldn't even see the steps.
We gathered the stuff we were taking up with us. All we were taking was almost couple of empty backpacks. They held only a couple of bottles of water some flashlights, duct tape and string. We thought we would be able to find anything else we needed in the office. Climbing the stairs was surprisingly easy. We arrived on our floor in about 15 minutes.
When we got to the office we were surprised at how little damage there appeared to be, but it was dark and so we couldn't really see all that well. We began to reconnoiter and to record the damage. We discovered one window broken by the storm, the blind was a twisted heap of crumpled aluminum. I saw the same pattern many times over the next few weeks. It is proof that wind caused the broken window. Around that window there was a lot of paper blown around, but surprisingly little apparent water damage.
Most of the damage we saw came from above. Apparently windows on floors above our office had broken and let in lots of water. Several sections of ceiling tile had collapsed due to the weight of the water. Most of the fallen tile missed the furniture. By then it had all dried out so we couldn't tell very much. Our computer equipment appeared to be perfectly fine, although we would need to power them up to be sure. We were pretty sure we could salvage most of our stuff and wouldn't need to replace our entire office.
We had come mainly to collect two computers, a file server with all of our electronic documents on it and a PC with all of our accounting records on it. These were essential to our continued existence.
Fortunately the computers were in a back room far away from the exterior wall and any windows. Barring a major building failure they would be safe for damage. They were also in a room with no lights or ventilation.
The file server consisted of several pieces and was the biggest problem. The PC was also a very large heavy box. Working almost in the dark we took the pieces we needed a conference and began packing them up to carry down the stairs.
If possible we also needed to remove some paper records including our check books. We gathered that up and packed those as well.
Having gathered and packed everything we thought we could carry, we started back down. We were trying to make only one trip. I'm not sure I could have made a second trip, if it had been necessary.
Hauling the stuff down the stairs was hot sweaty work. We had backpacks and were carrying things over our shoulders and in our hands. We stopped every few floors to make sure we had a good grip and that we wouldn't drop anything.
When we got the the landing on the first floor we stacked the stuff and went to back the Tahoe under the the building canopy. Since there was still water in the street over the curb and onto the sidewalk we didn't want to risk wading to the Tahoe. Hauling the stuff across the slippery first floor was out last hurdle and it took several careful trips but was uneventful.
After we loaded the Tahoe we looked up our benefactor, the building guy. He was checking things out and starting to figure out what to do next. We left him everything we had any of us though we might need, including bottled water, flashlights, sandwiches and duct tape.
Mission accomplished we started back out.