Cal sprinter/hurdler Tiarra Pittman recently was put in position to demonstrate that the athletic department’s commitment to student-athlete awareness is paying off.
Pittman, a junior on the Track & Field team, was waiting for a Graduate Student Instructor’s office hours to begin on the third floor of Evans Hall last week when the on-campus power outage and resulting explosion took place. After a few moments assessing the situation, Pittman and teammate Ciarra Jones realized that the building’s elevators may be stuck and immediately began trying to find out if anyone was trapped.
“There was a set of three elevators. We immediately started banging on the first elevator and there was nobody in that,” Pittman said. “We banged on the second elevator and there was nobody in that. We banged on the third elevator and somebody banged back. My heart stopped.”
A Graduate Student Instructor in the Math department named Watson Ladd was stuck in an elevator between floors. Pittman immediately began talking calmly to Ladd, assuring him help was on the way and to stay calm.
Pittman said she felt better equipped to handle the situation because of the athletic department’s “Bears That Care,” program, which focuses on violence prevention and promotes alertness on campus.
“Everyone on campus is really aware of their surroundings lately,” Pittman said.
Pittman said she talked with Ladd for about a half-hour in an effort to simply comfort him until help arrived.
“I tried to keep a daily normal conversation,” Pittman said. “I asked him about his family, pets, what his upbringing was like. I know his life story. I just wanted him to know that he wasn’t alone. It would be terrifying to bang on the door and nobody responds.”
Pittman and Jones eventually told Ladd they would be back but wanted to check on other floors of the building to see if anyone else was in need of help. They went from floor to floor using a dark stairway, which was a source of uneasiness.
“The stairwells were pitch black,” Pittman said. “I suggest to Ciarra that we sing a happy song, so we sang ‘Jingle Bells’ as we went up and down checking the elevators.”
Pittman and Jones eventually found a woman trapped on the second floor, but a congregation of other people had already arrived to help her.
They ultimately wound back up on the third floor to talk to Ladd, who was finally able to pry open the elevator doors and jump down to safety.
Pittman said she had recently witnessed a biker get hit by a truck in Berkeley. She called for help and stayed until the ambulance arrived.
“When the ambulance got there, I distanced myself from it because I didn’t want to become emotionally attached to the situation,” she said. “Once the ambulance got there, I walked away. I felt really bad afterward because taking care of someone is making sure they are OK at the end of the day. What motivated me this time is to make sure the people were out of the elevator.”