By Guest Contributor
Walking in my new work neighborhood near Gramercy Park, I saw a ruckus in front of me. At first I thought it was just kids horsing around. Then as I got closer I saw people milling around in the street. Cars weren’t moving. Then a man next to me cried out ‘Why? Why?’ In my head I told him to stop being so dramatic.
When I got to the intersection of 22nd and 3rd, I saw the reason why the man was screaming. There was a black Jeep with Jersey plates, stopped in the middle of the street. The driver was nowhere to be seen.
In front of the Jeep was a crumpled heap of a man, older, gray-haired, dirty, probably homeless, face down in the gutter with a growing pool of blood leaking from his skull. He was twitching, the way road kill does.
The only authority figure there was a garbage man, radioing for help from his truck. I think there was an off duty cop there too, calling for help on his cell phone. A woman took his pulse and said ‘He’s alive.’ I wanted to tell her not to touch him at all but some of the others beat me to it.
The old man continued to twitch and bleed. Women started to cry and cover their mouths in shock. I moved away slowly, fixated on the pool of blood. Then I turned and walked away. I went and bought some chips and a drink for lunch then went back to my cubicle. I’m new here so I didn’t say anything to anyone.
I am 37 years old. It’s been over five years since I’ve worked in Manhattan. It’s been over ten since I lived in Brooklyn. In all that time I have had only a mercifully small handful of traumatic experiences.
One was my cousin getting the shit beat out of him outside a comic store at 14th Street and 6th Avenue by a giant black guy. I rode with him in the ambulance to St. Vincent’s Hospital that day…it must have been around 1990, I was about 15.
And of course there was 9/11. I watched the whole thing unfold in person that day, running from my office on 7th Avenue, then trying to find my hapless cousin again. He turned out to be a little banged up working across the street from the Twin Towers but ended up okay. I watched both Towers fall, got covered in the ash, tried to give blood and ultimately walked down through Manhattan and into Brooklyn with hundreds of thousands of others that evening.
So, I’ve seen a small percentage of what rougher types than me would call ‘the shit.’ People dying. But today…today for some reason is sticking with me.
Is something wrong with me? I went from watching a man die in the street to buying some chips for my lunch. People were taking pictures which I felt was crass and wrong. Other people like me just stood and gawked. And then some who could, tried to help by calling for an ambulance.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me for thinking that there’s something wrong with me for just going about my business after watching something gruesome. Maybe I’m too sensitive. No one likes to feel powerless when confronted by an ugly situation. But the ambulance had already been called, the man’s head was still bleeding and “that’s the name of that tune,” as my Grandpa would say.
I wonder if anyone else there is thinking about him the way I am.
Lloyd Sabin has been writing about history and entertainment for 15 years. He has drafted historical background pieces for companies like SEGA and ACTIVISION and has published dozens of online articles covering topics as diverse as the Roman Empire, Dutch New York and the First World War.
Lloyd currently works as an online editor for a major sports and modeling firm in Manhattan. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now lives in a small mountainside village in distant Orange County, New York with his wife, two daughters and one very ornery Rottweiler.