The day the roof fell in. On my head.

It was five years ago to the day. I remember it well… too well.

First I went on a work-related errand: I drove to the local municipal office to pick up a nice cheque, a donation to the seniors’ organization where I was the administrative assistant.

Besides the gift of money, I was greeted by a lovely spread of coffee, cookies and Christmas cake, laid out for me along with other reps of organizations who were coming by to pick up their cheques.

Good thing, because that spread of sweets would be the last bit of food I’d have until some nine hours later – about, oh, 9 p.m. that night.

It seems that I made a fateful decision right after I left that office with the cheque stashed in my purse. I said to myself, Hey, as long as I’m out and about, and we have the pre-Christmas afternoon off, instead of going home I’ll go to Loblaw’s Supermarket to pick up the few items I need. It’s on the way, sort of.

So off I went, unsuspectingly, to Loblaw’s. I parked in the lot and entered the store lobby, heading to the left for the corner area where the shopping carts were. I gripped the handle-bar of a cart and was trying to separate it from another one it was entangled with, when all of a sudden I heard –

– a strange, low, rumbling noise. It resembled that of the earthquake we had here in Quebec back in 1988, the big Saguenay quake – except that this noise, though starting off softly, soon grew very LOUD… It’s an earthquake!! But –

– then I felt something pressing down on my head, gradually and insistently, pressing me ever lower to the floor! And then –

– I heard men’s voices, one yelling “Get her out!” And then as I felt my left arm being grabbed by big hands in a vise-like grip, I –

– heard another voice yelling, “I got her!” And then just as I was being quickly dragged away from the shopping-cart area, I turned back and saw –

– the ceiling of that section (which was separate from the rest of the lobby’s ceiling thank goodness!) CRASH down to the ground with an enormous roar – where I’d been standing not 10 seconds before! A cloud of dust wafted up as I stared, mesmerized, and I realized that was no earthquake, that was (just) a ceiling falling on my head! Then –

I was gently patted down into a chair, and found myself surrounded by kind store personnel, very solicitous, one with a towel for the bleeding cut on my forehead, another softly talking to me – to keep me conscious? I don’t know, but they were all very nice, and then –

– The firefighters came! Cute young guys in all their gear with axes, ready to fight demons or fires which weren’t actually there, and they gave me, the dazed-looking lady in the chair, the once-over. Assured that I’d live, they then seemed more interested in the devastation of the collapsed ceiling. After the firefighters, came the –

– paramedics! Immediately they made me lie down on a stretcher and immobilized my head and neck in a rather unforgiving, stiff, neck brace – I don’t know the proper term for it, but you’ve probably seen it in dozens of medical TV shows. 😉 By this time there were –

– many flashing lights outside, red, blue, white, and a crowd of shoppers and staff all around me at a respectful distance to see the woman who survived the ceiling cave-in! And then I was whisked –

– into an ambulance! I was brought to the Montreal General Hospital which is one of several major trauma centres here. I think they thought maybe I was in shock. Perhaps I was, because I was shaking, and had the bloody cut on my forehead, and OUCH my bottom hurt, because I think the ceiling must’ve pushed me down onto a pile of hard-plastic baskets, the type that people use in the store if they’re not planning to buy much. Let’s face it –

– a damn ceiling fell on me! Ever since, though, I tend to say it was the roof, although it really wasn’t – it was in fact a dropped ceiling… however, when I called my daughter from the phone in the E.R., the drama of it all took over and I did indeed tell her, sobbing: “A-a roof fell on my head!” Needless to say, she zipped over in a cab and spent the rest of the day and part of the evening with me, throughout the tests and scans which all proved negative. Bless her heart.

I was fine. The results of this memorable day were:

  • Loblaw’s had a brand-new ceiling constructed in that corner.
  • I had bruises for quite a while which eventually healed nicely.
  • Six months after the event I won a small settlement from Loblaw’s, for pain and suffering. It made me (and the lawyers!) happy. I wished I could’ve been a whole lot more happy, but it turns out that cuts and bruises don’t merit millions. Ah well. It was better than nothing!

Oh yes, the cheque I mentioned, for my workplace? It sat safely in my purse throughout that whole eventful day, and I brought it to my office after the holidays… along with this story to tell.

But I wouldn’t go back to shop at Loblaws for about a year. When I did go back, I always, warily, would keep glancing up at the ceiling as I made my way through the store. And I shopped fast, all the better to get back out to the parking lot – which had no ceiling except a nice blue sky.



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