We All Felt It

It’s Thursday, and as is often the case, I’m walking downtown, ready with a smile if needed, yet usually focused on earlier conversations in my head. Seldom do I walk around downtown without a purpose, so I’m often rehashing, prepping, planning, anything but paying attention to what’s going on around me. I guess you could say I was once again NOT connecting.

I stopped for the light at the corner of the busiest intersection in downtown Columbus (Broad and High) awaiting the Walk sign so I could cross Broad when I saw a flash of 4 young men stream past me, then wham! I looked down to discover one of them face down on the sloped part of the sidewalk leading into the street, feet almost touching the street and blood already streaming from his face.

Those of us waiting at the corner all did a collective gasp, momentarily held in suspension of belief, then moving in slow motion to assist the young man. His body was lifeless, angled at the waist yet facing down. No one seemed concerned by the baggy pants exposing his bright yellow shorts. Stepping around the enlarging puddle of blood under his face, we all moved tentatively to help him, move him, adjust him so we had a better understanding of what just happened.

Just at the time I said “We need to call 911”, my hand was on my phone and the lady near me said, “Got it.”

“You’re calling?” I repeated, not wanting to waste another moment in making the call. “Yes”, she said while nodding and then I heard her say, “a young man was accosted while on foot at Broad and High; he’s bleeding badly from the face and not moving; wait, yes, he’s breathing…”

By this time 2 businessmen were at his side, on the pavement in front of me just as he was getting up to move.

“Wait!” we all yelled, and the completely unaware victim slammed himself into the light pole, bouncing in the direction of traffic.

Only my mouth could move – “Grab him” I said, for his poor feet weren’t stopping. As blood was streaming down his face and his eyes were working hard to focus, he hardly noticed anyone around him. Quickly the young man was contained, pulled away from traffic, yet the men were apprehensive to touch him, he was soiled badly by his own blood. Then he began to cross the street just as a bus was pulling through.
“No!” several onlookers exclaimed and the men nearby no longer thought of their clothes but only of his safety as they pulled him back onto the sidewalk.

By then 3 teens entered the scene, laughing, taunting him. 8 or 9 of us adults stood in horror, witnessing the callous behavior. One stood right beside me. I wanted to say, “What is wrong with you?!” But all I could do was watch. This time not only my feet, my mouth wouldn’t work, either.

By now an ER wagon pulled up from the north and a lady near me flagged down a patrol car heading down High Street from the south. The youth pulled away from the men corraling him, stepped into the Dunkin Donuts on the corner behind us where he was immediately assisted onto a chair and guarded. Those assaulting him had flown across Broad, tucking themselves into the underground parking shelter.

“I don’t know for sure, but I think those 3 across the street were the ones responsible for this,” I said, turning to the adults around me who had stayed behind to assist. Many heads nodded and fingers pointed that direction as others clumped into tidy bundles to discuss their interpretation of what just happened.

“Excuse me, ma’m.” A Dunkin’ Donuts manager had walked outside with a tall cup full of hot water, intent on washing out the crimson blood from the sidewalk into the street. Up until that point, I was trying to protect the pedestrian traffic from walking through it, unaware. Some saw it, did a double-take, quickly looking around for evidence or a trail.

“Oh, yes, thank you,” I offered as I side-stepped to avoid the splash. My next move was to rush into the donut shop to get the patrol’s attention on the 3 assailants across the street. Once there I realized another lady was already telling him about the offenders, so I jumped in to speed up his awareness of where they were.

“Yes, she’s right,” the lady continued. “One has bright red shorts on and a black jacket.” A man nearby turned to me and said, “the kid knows them.”

Probably only 6 or 7 minutes went by as all this developed. Yet I can’t recall being so aware of my surroundings and those around me until that moment. We seemed caught up in a fog, yet nothing like we were just minutes ago. I’m pleased to note we responded. We weren’t the innocent bystanders who shy away from the action. Nor are we deserving any credit. We were just caught up in the moment of someone’s life being harshly taken for granted. Slammed into the sidewalk. Poked fun of. Callously used as entertainment. In that moment I felt the universal need to step in and make a difference. Many of us did.

Little difference we made on the life of the poor young man. Maybe we saved him from real pain that day, yet something tells me he’s been getting it for awhile. He’ll still get it. No, I don’t think we did much to stop that chain of events. Yes, some of them who were harrassing the youth were arrested. I saw them put the handcuffs on, saw the harasser patted down. But there was only one. Another stood on the sidewalk watching – or did I assume that young man was involved? It happened so fast.

What I appreciate out of all this was the collective surge we experienced – those of us who were shocked out of our inner monologue enough to be present to something going on. The appeal we responded to, to take notice. To not walk away. Yes, the persuasive appeal was strong – the immobility of the young man and the blood that freely ran without any sign of awareness on his part. That engaged us.

Walking into the bank later, I could hardly speak for the emotions I had experienced. Yet I had to share the story. It was too gripping to ignore. We all felt it. Before the adult group at the corner of Broad and High broke up, we touched each other, thanked each other for staying, for helping, for influencing our own behavior. So those usual exchanges that we have with bank tellers, with coffee shop baristas, etc, today had a new cadence, a tempo and mood unique and appropriate to being aware of those forces in life that force us to take notice.

“I’m still recovering,” has been my response to “and how are you today?” No drama, just simple, measured words. Usually someone who tries to extend positive energy and make a difference to those around me, I today am forsaking decorum for the sake of letting life make a difference to me. I’ve seen so many news stories about violence, vengeance, pranks, suicide, and murder. And I’ve not paid attention long enough for it to make a difference on me. If I had, I could then call myself to action: to pray for guidance, support or relief. It reminds me of the poignant take on an old saying,

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you aren’t paying attention.”

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On October 21st, 2010, posted in: Connecting, not paying attention by
One Response to We All Felt It
  1. Lori King's Blog
    October 22, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Very well written! Kept me reading til the very end. Even a photo. Hey, you're a budding photojournalist 🙂

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