Builder Joe O’Neal says he was “mad for a minute” to learn that the New York City marathon was cancelled in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. He was already in the city, ready to run the marathon for his twenty-fifth time. Then he realized, “I’m the luckiest person in the world.” O’Neal is a lifelong sidewalk (and real-life) construction superintendent, and his hotel room had a perfect view of one of the storm’s signature disasters: “You know that crane that came down? We were the closest living things to that crane!”

A week later, with O’Neal back in Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw Fire Rescue team climbed one of the two cranes on the site of the Ann Arbor City Apartments. Long planned, the drill seemed even more timely after Sandy. The team members were climbing in full gear, pretending to rescue a man up in the high cabin. “That’s what makes it really hard,” the supervisor explained from the ground. “It’s like climbing up fourteen stories. I’d rather [fight] eighteen fires than climb up there.”

Neighbor Mark Hodesh felt completely the opposite. “I thought it would be cool,” says the owner of Downtown Home & Garden. So after getting permission from O’Neal Construction’s site superintendent, Hodesh also climbed the taller crane.

Days later, Hodesh was still telling people about his adventure. “It’s just going up a lot of ladders in a row,” he says. “Then you push through a little metal trap door, and you’re there.”

Hodesh adds that the “Number One question” people have is: “Where do they go to the bathroom?”

“They carry a can,” says Hodesh, smiling.