Updated: Jan 13
We moved back to Chicago and bought the building where my family lived on the third floor from 1977 until the late 1980s.
We'd begun renovating the building and one evening while tidying up after the builders had gone home, a huge storm of apocalyptic magnitude blew into the neighborhood.
I had just come downstairs to the second floor, whose renovation had already been completed and was serving as our temporary residence until the conversion of the third floor apartment into our family sleeping quarter was finished.
I was sitting on a stepladder in the kitchen talking to my mother on a fixed-line telephone when a massive flash of lightening and near-deafening thunderburst startled me so much that I dropped the telephone's handset onto the kitchen floor.
I picked up the handset and told my mother about the looming storm and hung up the phone.
I walked over to the window and looking up into the sky saw the horrific sight of black storm clouds in the distance and quickly approaching.
Then it started to pour and the thunder and lightning became closer, louder and more frequent.
Soon, I was able to hear the sounds of sirens and had noticed a few buildings on surrounding streets had caught fire, but my view of the buildings closer by was slightly impaired due to trees which had grown taller and fuller than I had remembered from the time I lived in the building in my teens.
I remembered there was a hatch above the back porch on the third floor landing and decided to go upstairs, grab one of the workmen's ladders and climb up to see if I could open the hatch to get a better look around the immediate area to make sure none of our neighbor's buildings had caught fire, putting our building in harm's way.
When I got upstairs and made my way through the debris to the back door, I remembered that the landlord had installed a padlock on the hatch to prevent my brother and I from climbing onto the roof from where we would rappel down the side of the building during our summer holidays when we were in high school.
Just then, I recalled that the landlord's daughter—who sold us the building and had yet to vacate the first floor apartment where she continued to live until the renovation of the second and third floors were complete—would have the key to the hatch.
Opening the back door and stepping out onto the porch, I noticed that the sky had turned almost pitch black and the storm was intensifying. I tried to look up to see if the padlock was on the hatch, but it was too dark and the howling winds sent me back inside.
I decided to go back downstairs to get my cellphone and see if—using the phone's flashlight—I could get a better look at the hatch, but decided to simply call the landlord's daughter and ask her if she had the key.
By this time, the storm had doubled in intensity and I could now see buildings on fire, smell the smoke wafting through the neighborhood and hear the sirens drawing closer and closer to our street.
I suddenly panicked, remembering that my wife and children were asleep upstairs, so I quickly dialed her number on my cellphone but she didn't pick up.
Then I woke up.