When it became real for me? I'd seen people bitten. I'd run, fought, joined the exodus. Through a hole in a wall I watched some guy get eaten by a horde. It all seemed like a big dream to me, a high def horror movie I'd been watching for days.
The fires made it real. The flamethrowers that the National Guard guys had, sticky jellied gasoline fire. The funeral pyres we made of hundreds of corpses before the retreat, and their stench. Then, during the retreat, the way ahead being lit by the glow of the city burning behind us.