Monday, April 09, 2012

Une chute

I held a stricken stranger's head in my hand today. As I was standing on the west side of Fifth Avenue, looking across the intersection with 13th Street to the rapidly rising University Center, I heard a crunch and people shouting. I looked down and an old man was lying on the street, his cane a few feet away and his head not two meters from the curb where I was standing. He'd been hit by a passing car which, it became clear, had not stopped - although it lost a rearview mirror, and two people noted the license plate number. Construction workers were racing across the street but I was closest to the man, so I found myself on my knees by him, holding his head up with my hand. His face was bleeding, but otherwise he seemed alright. He didn't know what had happened, though - "I just fell down," he said, "I've fallen before, I'll be okay," "I have to get up," "I have to go"- but a circle of people stood around him, keeping him talking and convincing him not to try to get up, waving traffic by for the long five minutes until an ambulance arrived. As witnesses gave their names to a cop, the EMT put a brace around the man's neck and got him on a gurney, rolled it into the ambulance and were gone. Nothing left for me to do. The crowd dispersed. "That was a blessing, what you did," a young man standing behind me said. I was glad I could help, and a bit awestruck by it all, the suddenness, the enormity of it, my smallness. I hope I helped. I hope he's okay.

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