Thursday, April 03, 2008

In my mind’s eye

This morning at about 8:15 a woman walking across a busy street in DC was struck by a Metro bus. I can only imagine that she was just hurrying along to work—maybe worried that she was running late, and just pretty preoccupied. I guess I'll never know.

I was sitting on the bus that hit her. I had my head buried in a mindless novel, and I was running a little late for work myself is what I remember.

We’d just entered an intersection on busy K street—heading straight, and I remember feeling more than hearing some screeching, then a bump and the bus driver who was about 2 feet away from me screaming “oh my God!”

Having been a first aid trainer for many years, I turned to see what I could and was already dialing 911. A large crowd had gathered around the woman to help--she was conscious and crying. She insisted on crawling to the curb even though everyone tried to tell her to lie still, but she was pretty distressed and determined.

I told her my name, that I was trained in first aid and that help was on the way. This made her sob even more as she kept saying that she didn’t have the money to pay for an ambulance. We all tried to comfort her and tell her not to think a thing about that.

I asked her if there was anyone she wanted me to call and she gave me the number of her employer. I called and explained what was happening and they were of course very concerned. That seemed to make the poor woman feel somewhat better but the longer we sat, clearly everything was hurting her more especially her shoulder and side. As we waited, someone asked if there was anyone else we should call and she just so sadly said “I don’t have anybody”. Several of us assured her that we'd wait with her and that she was not alone.

The ambulance arrived about 5 minutes later and the crowd dispersed. As I walked the rest of the way to work, I called Susanne and, although I think I'd been pretty stoic up til then and didn't mean to, I just cried and cried while telling her all about it.

In retrospect I cried about a health care system where this poor woman who’d just been HIT BY A BUS, was more worried about how she’d pay for the bills when they came than about her injuries. I cried for the driver who was herself so shaken. I don’t know whose fault the accident was. I didn’t really see it. But regardless, hitting another human being has to be just awful.

I cried for the fact that she said “I don’t have anybody”. I know that I’m always so grateful for Susanne, but never more than when I remember all the years before we met that I would have probably said the same thing.

And I cried for her. Her pain. Her fear. What lies ahead. Because even though she was conscious, she was indeed injured.

The phrase “in my mind’s eye” means “one’s visual imagination or memory”. Those who know me well know that I was at the scene of a horrific bus accident in Honduras in 1989, where many people died or were critically injured that day, and me and my friends David S. and David D. did what we could to pull people out. There was no 911 on the way that day in that place. So what I witnessed today can't really compare. But it sure did open my mind’s eye. I pray that I can close it again. Soon.

And I hope that the young woman who was hit today and the bus driver come through this without too much damage. Please.


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