VIRGINIA: 24 Floors Up

The halyard of the flagpole atop Richmond's Central National Bank building was hopelessly snarled. To untangle it, bank officials last week hired an itinerant steeplejack named Lawrence Lawson, who was living at the Salvation Army shelter. Steeplejack Lawson was to get $15 for the job.

To fortify himself, he took a few stiff drinks of whiskey and gin. They were just a bit too stiff. Halfway up the 30-ft. flagpole, Lawson's foot slipped. He fell, heading for certain death, but the climbing stirrup caught his foot. For more than an hour, he hung...

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