lay gasping in pain, his life drastically different from what it had
been mere minutes before. Already, his entire face was purple inside
the helmet that saved him.
A handful of people suddenly had materialized. “How did they get there so quickly?” my daughter later would wonder. Neither of us saw them show up.
“Do you know your name? Tell me your name!” a woman, bending over him, demanded. She glanced up at me and said, as though eager to explain herself, “I'm trying to keep him alert.”
In every crisis, I've come to realize, there's that one person who figures out something to do besides hang around feeling powerless.
Barely conscious, Kevin fumbled for the photo i.d. pinned to his denim jacket. Somehow, I found this automatic gesture, this human instinct, heartbreaking. Even now, terrified and writhing, he seemed to say, “I'm Kevin and I work for a big aerospace company. My job is me.”
Mere minutes before, Kevin was just another selfish jerk, zipping along on his motorcycle without regard for those he so easily could harm. It was a Friday evening and perhaps he was in a celebratory, weekend kind of mood.
Simultaneously, Erin and I were driving back from her last softball game of the season. As we prepared to turn right from the winding thoroughfare that leads into our neighborhood, a motorcycle in the left lane jetted past at double the speed limit.
“Oh my God,” I heard myself say--a split second before registering that the cyclist had lost control, jumping the curb of the center divider.
He skimmed bushes for half a block, hit a tree and flew off his
bike--which careened into the right-hand curb. Dazed, the man crawled
directly in front of my stopped van and collapsed on the sidewalk.
For a brief moment, I weighed what to do first--call 911 or check on him. He needed paramedics more than he needed me, so I summoned help with forced calmness. I curse the ubiquity of cell phones--but, well, they can serve a purpose.
Then I left my car, grabbing Erin's water bottle to offer the victim a drink. As soon as I got a better look at him, I realized my naivety. Taking the lead of the woman asking his name, I reassured the guy: “You're fine, you're fine, you're going to be fine.”
An ambulance, a fire truck and police cars arrived. Officers interviewed Erin and me, the witnesses. I marveled at my 12-year-old’s grace under pressure, then silently ridiculed myself for trivializing the situation with sappy maternal pride.
Paramedics (what important, important people) carefully loaded Kevin onto a stretcher. Bystanders could see that the skin beneath his shirt had been scoured raw. No doubt there were injuries not visible to us.
“Someone should call his wife,” Erin commented, noting his wedding ring.
Kevin is no kid. Kevin is in his forties. What was Kevin thinking when he roared down this stretch of civilization where joggers jog and dog walkers walk and mothers drive their children home from ball games?