Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On the Street Where You Live

I was there tonight when a man named Dennis on a small, shiny red dirt bike was run down by a giant tanker on the corner of Franklin and Greenpoint around 8:30. I heard the collision -- and looked out the window of the Pencil Factory to see a bike crushed beneath the wheels. A huge 18-wheeler was turning right onto Greenpoint from Franklin, and Dennis was in the crosswalk. Who knows who had the light? Most likely they both did and the truck simply didn't see him from the cab high above the street. No matter -- it's wrong that it even happened how it did.

Dennis pulled himself on his stomach from beneath the tires and began tossing back and forth on his back in the crosswalk. I bolted to the bar to ask Charles at the PF to call 911, then ran outside to do....something. His jeans were torn in places they shouldn't have been. I crouched down to ask Dennis his name, tried to keep him still, and held his hand to assure him he would be okay as we waited the longest 4 or 5 minutes in the world for the ambulances to arrive. The driver stood nearby anguished, with his hands in the air repeating "I didn't see him, I didn't see him." A ubiquitous, drunk Greenpoint Avenue Polacki did his part to add to the confusion in the street, while people stood around gawking and not knowing what to do -- and how can you?? The world turns upside down during such instants. It's unexpected and all out of order in one second. There I am, finding again that I am much better with others' traumas than my own.

I saw the ring on his finger and asked who to call. He gave us his wife's Karen's number and I spoke with her for ten minutes on someone's borrowed phone as he was loaded onto a backboard and into the ambulance. While his child talked about his bedtime in the background, Karen tried to process what was going on. I told her that her husband seemed coherent with no obvious head or body injuries, although he was in a lot of pain as legs were probably broken, and that she should go to Bellevue. (Thankfully, they weren't taking him to Woodhull. Bellevue is the best trauma center in NYC, at least post-9/11. If you are at all coherent in an accident, tell the guys take you there). For their family -- for him -- in an instant -- everything changed. Man, I hope he's okay.

As a side note, Charles mentioned that this was the 5th time he has seen an accident similar to this right there on the corner. I wonder how many more it takes. When does the light on a major truck route need to become an arrow-only turn with a clear crosswalk?

So, ahem. As I was saying right before I left home, strangers can become part of your lives in NYC for the most poignant and intense ten minutes you can imagine. And there's no other way you can be sometimes. We all live half on the street; and there are crystallized instances where if we are at all human, we are flung deep into each other's lives.


ope said...

everyone hug someone -- nothing scares me more than sudden rationalirrationality.

The Know-All said...

My god, how can everything change in that brief instant? There it is. Live for all you have right now.

Tim M said...

Just the fact that you had the humanity to attempt to give comfort to this poor fellow and help him connect with loved ones, proves yet again that there are very special people among us and I'm proud to say I know one of them....unbelievable story. Next time you feel insignificant for any reason, flash back on this and stand a little taller!

jon said...

I pass that corner to & from on my run each night around that time. It definitely could have been me. That whole stretch of Franklin has way too many accidents.

Let us lurkers know if/when you hear back from the guy, Hope he's OK.

The Know-All said...

I talked to his wife tonight when she called to give me a very sweet thank you. He broke his kneecap and pelvis and has a ton of bruises from, um, a truck running over him, but he's going to be okay. He's still at Bellevue but is already starting rehab (!)