I’d missed the bell-ringing ceremony at midnight to open the celebrations, but that didn’t mean I had to miss anything twelve hours later. The streets were moderately busy; people were still waking up, getting ready to leave, or elsewhere. Today was not yet in full swing, nor had the true celebrations started.
The grand clock tower was open to the public today; it was half clock tower, half miniature castle, and definitely the highlight of town at several hundred feet tall. People were sauntering up and down the winding stairs, daylight pouring in through the large ornate windows at certain levels of the tower.
Most of the people up and about were young, around their twenties. Many of them seemed like students though I had no way of truly telling. A good number of them were rather unsurprisingly on their phones. While walking, while standing against the walls of buildings, while ascending the clock tower…it’s not like I can say anything about it, though. I look at mine just as much as they do.
Come late noon, the streets were full. The crowds seemed hurried, though. It was slightly unnerving. Even more unnerving was that it still felt like celebrations were happening. It felt confused. It felt wrong.
I saw several lower-floor windows of buildings barricaded. The barricades definitely weren’t there earlier and I was getting genuinely worried now.
Then it broke out. It could have been a protest, or a riot, or both, or neither. All I wanted at that moment was to be somewhere else. I followed up on that wish as much as I could. I could see people hiding in doorways of buildings, hiding behind their barricades.
I headed for the clock tower, hoping and assuming whoever was involved in this wouldn’t damage the clock tower out of respect for it. Many student-types were ascending the stairs as well, still looking at their phones. This time perhaps to tell everybody what was going on, or asking for their help.
When I was about 75% of the way to the top, everybody in the tower simultaneously received a text message. I looked at it right away; there was no information whatsoever about who sent it. “You aren’t safe. Leave the area now.” It felt more threatening than anything at this time. I hoped that whoever was out there would leave us be in the clock tower. We stayed here, and stayed until we heard nothing outside.
By nightfall, I could still hear it. I’d since told everybody what was happening, as well as my status. I told them all I couldn’t make it home. I was at least relieved we still had service here.
I guess I had to spend the night here in the clock tower. I did my best to assume a protective position, and closed my eyes…