Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The Best and the Worst of the City
Last Tuesday a woman was killed in front of where I work. It was 4 o'clock, and I was just getting ready to pack it in and get ready to go home when my boss came and said that our building was a crime scene. Now, I am not an ambulance chaser who runs to see every accident or fight (for lack of a better word), but the fact is we are OUR building. Here on Delancey there are very few tall buildings, and my building consists of a lobby and 2 flights. The second flight is where I work; the third is the Continuing Day Treatment Program. So, this time I did go to the window to have a look, and I saw that the police were putting up their yellow 'police investigation' tape enclosing our building, but I couldn't see what was going on. Then, someone said you could see better out of the window on the other side, and I went to look. My friends, I am so sorry I did because I cannot get the sight out of my mind.
There, lying on the street, was a bicycle, and near it, a white sheet was covering a body. I quickly turned away, trembling. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I immediately thought of my son who rides a bicycle on his job. It was simply awful. Later I found out that the victim was an older woman. She had been riding her bicycle and hit a pot hole...was thrown off her bike and into the back tire of a school bus. It was the WAY that people reacted that is really sticking to me. Our nurse...yes, I am talking about a nurse. She was running to everyone's door screaming "Come look, come look, they're dead." Lady, you are a nurse! Of all people to be reacting this way, the one this is least expected of was acting the worst.
Then, when it was time for me to leave, and I walked the long way around because I just didn't want to walk by the scene...and here were a group of high school girls excitedly running to get a look. The one in front was screaming for the others to hurry, and the others were laughing as they raced to catch up. And then, there are all the gawkers, those who just stood around taking it all in like they had no place to go. And there was the police patiently trying to back everyone away...and being abused by the onlookers who were screaming back at them "We can stand wherever we want. The sidewalks are free." And all the while they're stretching their necks trying to get a look. It made me sick to my stomach to see this. Let's face it, that poor woman was someone's daughter...maybe someone's wife...someone's mother....someone's friend...and everyone was acting like it was the show of the century. This was the worst of the city.
And later came the newspaper blogs...and I couldn't believe that people were actually blaming the victim. "Oh, well, the school bus has the right away." "These bike riders ask for it, they drive so crazily." No, fella, this woman didn't "ask for it." And if anyone was at fault for this accident, it was the city for not filling in that pot hole, for not listening when people were pleading for a bike lane. Delancey Street is treacherous. Each side has three lanes and an island in the middle. And the light changes so quickly that you may start across the minute the light says 'go' and only make it to the center island before the caution light starts blinking. There has been plenty of people killed and injured there...and they tell me, that a few years ago the neighborhood got together to try to petition the city to make the time you can cross longer...and instead the city speeded them up.
What happened to the togetherness, the love, the concern, the basic goodness and caring of people that was there on 9/11? Where did it go? On that day everyone was out to HELP the next person. Last Tuesday they were acting like a rock star had arrived. Last Tuesday I felt like I was in an altogether different city.
Well, last Wednesday was my late day; I start work at 11 am. The pot hole was still there. We had a fire scare in the building about 3pm and had to evacuate. The pot hold was gone. The city had finally filled it in, but sadly, it took someone's death for them to do it...or was it done just to cover it up in case of a lawsuit by the victim's family.
And you know what? I do feel better now that I was able to share this, and it also made me see that the goodness is still here...for people have set up a memorial down the block for the unknown victim. A bicycle has been attached to a pole (soon they will bring the white bike that signifies a biker's death), someone drew a cross, people are leaving notes and flowers. People do care about the unknown victim. I guess last Tuesday those that care were not to be seen because, like me, they had feelings. Thank you for letting me share this.