Not a Leg to Stand On

apartmentfire

Every day Jordan Carton covered the one-and-one-half miles to work on foot—literally one foot.

From the age of 19 until he was 36 Jordan worked in a heavy-equipment manufacturing business that paid well and provided wonderful security. However, an industrial accident caused by a fellow worker not paying attention to a warning light on an electronic console resulted in Jordan losing his leg from the hip down.

He was completely alone in the world, an only child whose parents had died within a year of each other nearly a dozen years prior to the accident. Jordan had never married and had no known relatives, although some must have existed somewhere. The accident cost him his job, and even though there was a financial settlement, it was not nearly enough to provide for him for the remainder of his life.

No public transportation existed in his town, and Jordan was too embarrassed, too angry, or too proud to ask the only other hourly employee for a ride each day. So he walked each morning to work and returned home each afternoon in the same manner.

Most people would fall into self-pity, and he did too. He seldom talked to anyone, confined himself to his apartment, and watched television or worked on wood crafts in his off hours. His diet consisted of frozen foods. The other employee with whom he worked later said that the only time Jordan talked was in brief exchanges when he needed to know some information about the job he was working on at the time. He never went out with anyone to a bar or to a movie because he associated with no one.

Jordan had been fitted for a prosthetic leg, but it rubbed him and made him quite uncomfortable, so after a month of wearing it, he pitched it in the dumpster. Instead, he hobbled on one crutch everywhere his one leg would take him.

One night a fire broke out in his apartment building, which consisted of four units. He had a ground floor apartment. To his left lived an elderly couple who were each nearly completely deaf; one walked with a cane, while the other one moved about in a wheelchair. Jordan broke into their dwelling and herded them outdoors to safety.

In the unit above lived a woman with her elderly mother and their three cats. Upon hearing the fire alarm each became hysterical and neither had the presence of mind to open the door and move to safety. Thanks to Jordan they survived when he once again broke into their place and shepherded them outdoors.

In the other upstairs apartment dwelt a family of five—two parents and three children under the age of five. Their apartment was the one where the fire originated, and they appeared trapped inside. Jordan again managed to break open the door. The husband grabbed his youngsters and whisked them to the yard, but the wife lay unconscious on the floor.

When the firefighters arrived they found the wife in the hall and took her outside and worked on her. She survived, although smoke inhalation forced her to the hospital for two days.

However, flames engulfed the complex by this time and Jordan was nowhere to be found. Later his body was discovered still in his family’s apartment. His crutch had melted, and the medical examiner speculated that, unable to move, he had attempted to escape the smoke and fire by going to a window, breaking it out, and breathe fresh air while waiting for someone to rescue him.

Jordan Carton lay on his stomach covering a book he had found on a shelf. Officials could offer no explanation for the book other than speculation that he had been delirious before the end. The title was A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, and it was turned to the final page.

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