In Retrospect, I Guess We Might Have Resorted To Cannibalism A Bit EarlyCommentary • Opinion • ISSUE 33•22 • Jun 10, 1998 By Milton Boyd Milton Boyd Well, I suppose everyone's heard about last week's incident by now, and you probably have a pretty low opinion of us survivors. And, all things considered, perhaps we deserve it. Perhaps we panicked and resorted to cannibalism a bit early. But you weren't there. You don't know what it was like. I just want you to hear our side of the story before you go judging us. When the six of us got into the elevator on that fateful day, we had no idea what was going to happen. We thought we were just going to take a little ride from the 12th floor to the lobby, just like every other day. Do you think we knew that elevator was going to get stuck between floors? Do you think we got into the elevator saying, "Hey, you know, we should eat our good old pal Jerry Weinhoff from Accounts Payable"? Of course not. During those first few minutes after the elevator car lurched to a stop somewhere between the seventh and eighth floors, we were still civilized human beings. Everyone kept his cool. We tried pushing the emergency button. We called out for help. We even banged on the door a little bit. Nothing worked. Still, we figured, "No big deal, someone will notice that the elevator's stuck, and this thing will start back up any second." Morale was generally high. John and Peter actually cracked some jokes, if you can believe that. Maybe it started there, the hysteria. Maybe we should have known. But, at some point, when the voices went away, and pushing the buttons continued to have no effect, it started to look a lot less like we were going to have a funny story to tell our kids and a lot more like they'd never hear from us again. It does something to a person to think that. You confront your own mortality for the first time. You become savage, brutal. One word enters your mind: survive. Survive!I have no idea how long we'd been marooned when we started edging toward Jerry. Twenty, thirty minutes, time has little meaning when you're in a situation like that. It wasn't a spoken decision, either. We just all looked at each other and knew something had to be done. It might have been an animal act, but it had a certain logic. Jerry lived alone and had nobody special in his life--no kids, no wife or girlfriend, and his parents had died a long time ago. And, most important, he was the biggest. We figured there was enough meat on him to keep the rest of us alive for days, maybe weeks. Peter held him down while I tore at his forearm with my teeth. Not surprisingly, Jerry resisted. He struggled ferociously and shouted, "Hey, what the hell are you doing?" But he knew exactly what we were doing: We were doing whatever it took to survive. Eventually, we were able to knock Jerry out. And, as for what we did next, I'm sure you've read about it in the papers. Maybe it was savage. Maybe it was an animal act. But human teeth are pointed and sharp in front for a reason. Besides, we had no way of knowing that, at that very moment, an Otis Elevator repairman was working to free us. We only knew that we were between floors, and that it had been more than five hours since we'd had lunch. The veneer of civilization is thin. Civilization depends upon people acting in a reasonable manner and obeying certain universal laws. But civilization also depends upon that cruise ship staying afloat. It depends upon that airliner passing safely over the Arctic Circle. And it depends upon that elevator continuing smoothly down to the lobby of the Hadley Insurance Building. Am I sorry about what I did? Of course. Taking a life is never easy. But sometimes we have little choice. When I finally got home from work that day, some 50 minutes late, my youngest daughter Kellie ran up to me and gave me a big hug. She said, "Daddy, I'm glad you're home." Daddy, I'm glad you're home. It was at that moment I knew I'd done the right thing.