On Saturday, I saw something I’ve heard about, and been warned about, but never wanted to experience. I was taking the subway to Brooklyn for brunch at my friend Susan’s, and was pretty excited. Susan is an amazing cook (she’s won several local cooking competitions and also writes a great food blog), and she had a pretty fantastic menu planned – check it out:
I was walking from the subway to Susan’s apartment, not listening to music or anything but also not paying terribly close attention to everything around me…. until I heard brakes squealing, and I focused on the car that was coming to a stop about 1/2 block in front of me. Why was he slamming the brakes on? And then I saw a young woman fly up in the air and land with a huge crash on the windshield, completely shattering it.
Despite there being blood seemingly everywhere, she actually got up off the car by herself before the many people closer than me reached her and helped her walk over to the sidewalk, where they laid her on the ground. Seeing that she had managed to walk a bit (albeit with help), I thought the best thing to do was for me to stay out of the way – it seemed that despite the severity, others had it under control. However, I needed to walk in that direction anyway, so as I passed by, I double checked: “Did someone call 911?” Silence all around as people looked at each other with “oops” looks on their faces… so I stopped in my tracks and pulled out my phone.
I have to say, 911 was surprisingly inefficient. Despite my careful enunciation and detailing of the cross streets where I was, they asked me to repeat the street names multiple times, and then asked for the names of some of the businesses around so they could look those up instead. (Unfortunately, that was easier said than done – I was in a kind of rundown area with no-name bodegas and hair salons). It probably took two full minutes for them to figure out where I was and agree to send an ambulance.
In the meantime, they asked for my cell phone number just in case the ambulance couldn’t find us, and for me to find out the victim’s age. I made my way through the small crowd that had formed around her to ask – and saw that I was looking at a runner not very different than any of my friends. She didn’t seem to have any headphones, but had on cute Lululemon gear and a Garmin (which was still running… and I’m really embarrassed to admit that for a split second I wondered if I should offer to stop it). And when I asked her age, she answered that she was 24 years old – just a few years younger than me.
As I was conveying that to the 911 operator, a fire truck pulled up – the firemen had been passing by on their way back to the station and jumped out to help. I was immensely relieved as they got out their neck stabilizer/backboard/etc and took charge of the situation. However, since the 911 operator had taken my cell phone number, I felt like I still needed to stay until the ambulance got there. While the firefighters moved in, I pulled back and tried to stay on the outskirts.
With nothing further to do on my part except wait for the ambulance, I just stood back and watched the firefighters do their thing. Now that I knew the girl was safe, I had a chance to actually process what had happened – and it terrified me. She was a runner just like me or any of my friends, and she was just out doing her thing when she found herself smashing through a windshield. I got tears in my eyes as I thought about it, and seeing them, one of the firefighters asked if she was a friend of mine. I replied that no, I was just a bystander and waiting for the ambulance… and then the ambulance pulled up and I could leave.
But as I walked away, I was completely shaken up. Again, when I think how easily that could happen to anyone… to any of us. It only takes a second for something horrible to happen, and I literally started shaking with fear at the thought of it. I called my mom crying for the rest of the walk to Susan’s brunch, and even after arriving, I didn’t feel quite right for a little while (thank you, blueberry mimosas, for making me forget about it and start to relax). I briefly Tweeted about how shocked I was, but then I just didn’t know how to put into words everything that was going through my head about it. I’m doing my best with this post.
Seeing a runner just like me fly up in the air and land on the windshield of a car was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Please, please, please – if you are out running in an area where there are cars, BE CAREFUL. Wear a Road ID with all your emergency contact info on it. Don’t wear headphones, unless they are Airdrives or another kind specifically designed to let you hear ambient sound with your music. Keep your music turned down, even if you are already doing as you should and wearing Airdrives. (DO NOT wear earbuds or DJ-style earmuffs). As elementary as it sounds, make sure that every time you cross the street, you look both ways – even if the “walk” sign is blinking and you technically have the right of way. I am guilty of all this too, and I know that cars are equally responsible. But, God forbid, if you get hit, is it really any consolation to be able to say that it’s the other guy’s fault? Do everything in your power to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place.