I remember well the first time I saw a lifeless body in New York City. It was June 2006, and amid the stifling subway heat of an early-summer afternoon, I walked past an elderly woman on a bench, her head back, her mouth agape, an MTA employee sitting patiently by her side waiting for someone to take her away.
Fast forward seven years and I’m finishing a run down Prospect Park West, frustrated at the honking of two lanes of stalled traffic. Then, at Third Street, I saw what I knew I’d eventually see, someday, if I lived in this city long enough: a boy lying limp on the western lane of the intersection, two adults standing over him. An NYPD cruiser was approaching from inside Prospect Park. It had just happened.
One woman said something about a motorized scooter, and the kid being in the bike lane. It didn’t make sense. Nothing I heard made sense. It had all happened so fast. I was of no service – I still haven’t signed up for that trauma class I keep telling myself I should take – so I ran home to get my phone. I stopped a couple of parents walking in that direction with their children. No one needs to see that, especially at that age.
I returned to join a thinning crowd of gawkers. The kid was gone; marking where he had lain was a pool of blood. I looked at it through teary eyes until I felt desensitized. I counted seven officers, one of whom was in white. They put a Hispanic man in the back of a cruiser. He was the driver of the van, someone said.
Maybe the kid had chased a ball across the street. Were that true, one older woman said, it should be the parents’ fault. The three of us who heard that comment looked at each other in disbelief. OK, maybe there is some common sense in this city, on this absurd motorway.
How ironic that Sarah Goodyear asked Commissioner Kelly just this morning about preventing needless deaths on streets. He had nothing to say. “‘No criminality was suspected’ is a phrase that has become grimly familiar to street safety advocates,” she wrote. Yes, yes it is. And Mayor de Blasio will pick a new commissioner, one aligned with his “Vision Zero” of no traffic deaths.
Good riddance, Mr. Kelly. Cemeteries are filled with indispensable men.
My heart goes out to everyone involved: the child (who, I hope, will survive and make a full recovery), the parents, anyone who saw the collision or the immediate aftermath, anyone who’s had something similar happen to them.
But oh, the blood! Sometimes it goes out of our bodies into a little vial – so orderly. Sometimes we see it when we give ourselves a paper cut, or trip and fall: Band-Aid. But when it’s just lingering on asphalt like that, the crux of someone’s young life reduced to a little red puddle, …