After fleeing to the basement during a tornado warning, residents of Eignemann Residence Hall started to file into the elevators to make their way back up to the rooms. For one group of 22 residents, however, the ride was longer than expected.
“We stopped on the first floor and the doors opened,” freshman and Eigenmann resident Erika Helding said. “We closed the doors, then the elevator dropped, and we heard a loud crash. It didn’t really feel like it dropped far — I couldn’t feel anything, but I obviously knew it crashed because we heard it.”
Since the group of students exceeded the weight limit, the elevator dropped from the first floor to about halfway beneath the ground level.
Almost immediately, many students felt anxious and uncomfortable in the situation they found themselves in. In attempts to relieve the worries of much of the elevator group, some residents looked for ways to get people’s minds off the dilemma.
“It was packed with 22 people, so we didn’t have a lot of room, but if somebody was having a panic attack we would give them space,” freshman and Eigenmann resident Seth Foutty said. “Some people were making jokes. Half the elevator was trying to play games or keep their minds occupied while they were getting the maintenance workers and other people to come.”
After the elevator dropped and the light indicating what floor the elevator was on went off, the residents clicked the call button in the elevator. The call directed them to the elevator company, which sent help.
The help did not come quick enough for those residents that were having panic and anxiety attacks. The residents were trapped for about 50 minutes, Foutty said.
Once the elevator technician was able to pry the door open, the residents saw that half of the elevator was even with the ground floor, while the other half was below the ground floor. They then began pulling themselves up and out of the elevator.
“A lot of people would just pull themselves up onto the ground floor, it wasn’t too hard,” Foutty said. “We just wanted to get out of there so we started crawling out on our own— nobody was really pulling us out.”
The residents left the elevator with mixed opinions about how they would use the elevators after the events that took place.
Foutty claims that despite having a sprained ankle, he will be taking the stairs for the next month at least.
However, Helding said she will continue taking the elevator just as long as there’s not 22 people in it.
The traumatizing experience created new friendships for some.
“It was really a tense situation, but we all made a group chat,” Helding said. “I think we’re going to stay in touch through this experience.”