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The party was just beginning on a recent Saturday night when the third-floor balcony on which six of us stood collapsed without warning. I grabbed the railing, clinging to it as the others fell to the second floor.

I scaled the railing to a portion of the balcony that hadn't disintegrated, then found the stairwell and climbed down to help my friends. We made it to the ground safely, but we were all somewhat bloody.

The first-floor tenant came out of his apartment, asking what we were doing. We told him what had happened and that some people were hurt.

"Just stay out of the garden," he said. "It took a long time to put it together."

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