In the winter of 1976, the Peachtree Plaza Hotel opened in Atlanta and I was only three and half years old. You may wonder what the Peachtree Plaza opening and my age have to do with one another.
When I went to write this story down, I researched the opening of the hotel in order to be able to accurately record my age at the time. I guessed that I was six. But with the hotel opening in February 1976, I found it interesting to realize that this story could be one of my very first memories.
In February 1976, the opening of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel was the buzz around Atlanta. At the time, it was the tallest hotel in the world, and was Atlanta’s tallest building until 1987. As part of the celebration, the Peachtree Plaza invited citizens to check out this gem of architecture and to ride the scenic glass elevators running up and down the outside of the building.
My family loved an outing to Atlanta, and therefore, we jumbled together into our green Pontiac station wagon on a cold Saturday night and set off for fun in the city.
When we arrived at the hotel, the place was swarming with gawkers like us, taking pictures, packing the escalators side to side and top to bottom and standing in line for the elevators. It was an exhilarating event, and everyone was in a happy, festive mood.
After combing around the building for about an hour, we prepared to leave and made our way through the crowd to the down escalators that led to the lobby. Ever enthusiastic, I jumped on the escalator step in front of my brothers, with mom and dad on a third step behind. I stood to the edge to allow room for the people standing beside me.
As I barely peeked over the railing, out at the fresh, sparkling interior design, I felt a pull on my right leg. As the baby of the family, I was accustomed to my brothers roughhousing and teasing me. So, I turned my head sideways and yelled: “Tim, stop!” “I’m not doing anything!” he yelled back. But the pull continued. I yelled again: “Tim, STOP!” And then this noise emerged, this squeaking, then I felt my toes getting smooshed, and maybe a little smell of burnt rubber. My brother was no longer the suspect in whatever was yanking my foot farther and farther down.
In the instant I registered that something was wrong, so did my dad. From over the top of my brothers came his long, strong arms—hands gripping tightly under my arms from behind and then straight up!
My dad was calm as he pulled me and my foot out from between the escalator step and the metal siding. He bent his arms and pulled me to his chest to carry me the rest of the way off of the escalator.
At this point, my mom could catch glimpses of the ripped and nearly torn off shoe as my legs dangled around and beside dad. She was imagining mangled toes, crushed limbs, and a lifelong limp. But when we stepped aside, took off the shoe and inspected my cute little three-year-old foot, there wasn’t a hint of damage. The shoe? Shredded. My foot? Untouched. And I still have that torn-up shoe. A Flintstones, Keds-style shoe. They were my favorite.
My dad was strong, so there’s no doubt that I know he was capable of solely lifting me free . . . from a force pulling me down . . . from two steps up and behind me . . . over my brothers . . . on an overcrowded escalator. But I also know that there are angels who attend us, who alert us, who help us have the strength, who clear the way, who work the seemingly insurmountable physics in our favor. They attended me and my dad that night, riding an escalator in the world’s tallest hotel. I have the scarless foot and shredded shoe to prove it.
©2015 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.