After this Post I will Let Happy Overshadow Sad

10 Oct

For all time going forward, yesterday, October 9, 2013, will be known (in my mind at least) as the day I met one of my closest friend’s new son, Theo.  But for the purpose of this blog post, in this moment, and as a way for me to allow my head to move beyond a very disturbing event, yesterday was the day I saw a guy get hit by a bus.

Okay.  I didn’t actually see him get struck, luckily.  I was walking down Ditmas Avenue at about 5pm when I heard a loud noise.  I looked to my right and saw a bus, stopped somewhat crooked in its lane as if it were just pulling away from the curb or had just completed a turn, a slowly building crowd, and a lump on the ground.  It took me a second to realize that the lump was a man lying in a heap in front of the MTA bus, the B103 I think, that had just struck him. I called 911, hoping the person who answered my call would thank me and tell me the accident had already been reported.  Instead, she asked for my exact location – Flatbush, in between Ditmas and Newkirk – and told me to stay on the line, she was going to connect me to a different person.  I held for what seemed like an eternity, though it was probably closer to one minute, until another woman answered the phone and again asked me for my location.  I reported it and then she peppered me with questions:  Is he moving?  Can you see him breathing?  Is he awake?  Are his eyes open?

The accident had occurred close to Newkirk, and I was nearer Ditmas.  I was hoping to be able to report the incident from afar, never getting close enough to see the damage that a bus can cause a human being.  Unfortunately, I was out of luck.  I ran down the block towards the incident, looking for any sign of movement.  Initially I had thought I saw the man move, but I quickly realized that the movement I thought I saw was likely not made through his own power, but was instead the result of him being struck by a huge piece of machinery.  By the time I got close enough to see the growing blood stain on the concrete, there was no movement to detect.  He was facing away from me so I couldn’t tell whether or not his eyes were open.  Although he was lying on his left side, his face appeared to be almost entirely in contact with the asphalt.  I reported to the dispatcher what another bystander had told me:  he was not moving but he was alive.  I also told her about the state of the bus:  the windshield had a spiderweb-like crack that had spread to cover, in various densities, almost the entire expanse of glass.  She told me she had assigned a job number, that help was on the way.  She took my number and I said I would stay there as long as it took first responders to arrive.

As I waited, I did all I could to not look at the man lying in the road.  I have no medical background; calling for help was really the only thing I could do.  I surveyed the growing crowd.  There were people standing in front of their businesses, looking.  And then there were people standing around the man, not touching him, taking his photograph.  There were all these people with their cell phones out and yet I was the first person to call for help.

I remember learning about the Kitty Genovese case from from the 1960s which became the most commonly used example of the bystander effect.  The idea is that oftentimes people don’t call for help because they assume someone else has already done it.  The more people present, the more likely people believe it is that someone else has already stepped up.  I suppose I have the benefit of having learned about Kitty Genovese.  I have sat in classrooms and wondered to myself whether or not I would do something if I encountered someone in need of help.  And to be honest, there was a moment in my mind where, upon noticing the mounting crowd, I assumed someone else had already called 911.  I assumed they were already notified and that another call would simply be an annoyance.  But then I thought well, what if no one called? Could I live with myself if I left the scene and it turned out, although I likely would never know, that the man laid there for more time than necessary?  So I called and I’m glad I did.

I waited until the first fire truck arrived and I rushed off, trying to get out of there before they either lifted the man onto the stretcher or declared him dead.  I thought I had already seen enough and I was concerned about what the injured side of his body might reveal to me.  I was of no use at that point, and the last thing I wanted to be was yet another person standing there, watching, as a man experienced the worst moment of his life.  So I fled, eyes burning as I finally came to terms with what had just happened.

So that’s it. And now that the experience is out there in the world, I can remember yesterday as a happy day.  I can now stop searching for information regarding the fate of the man I saw and I can stop wondering why in the world anyone would want a photograph or video of someone lying on the street, possibly dead, after being struck by a bus.

2 Responses to “After this Post I will Let Happy Overshadow Sad”

  1. keema October 14, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    I was on that bus with my 4 year old son. I was in snock the rest of the day I never saw anything like that and all the bus driver did was curse about the man walking in front of the bus smh

    • FranklyRebekah October 14, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

      Oh my god, I am so sorry to hear that. I hope you and your son are dealing with the experience okay! I’m sad to hear that about the bus driver although I am sure that he is dealing with an immense amount of guilt, whether or not the accident was his fault. Here’s to hoping none of us ever have to witness something like that again. All my love.

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