PSA: The Car Crash

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.

Comments

  1. That’s really scary. I’ve never seen someone get hit but I’ve come damn close to being hit before…even when I have the right of way. Thanks for posting!

  2. That must have been a horrifying thing to witness; my stomach was in my throat just reading your post. I really hope the girl’s OK.

  3. Yikes! Exactly why I don’t use any music when running and do not talk or use my phone at all while driving. I see too much working in the ER.

    Glad you are ok. Thanks for helping out at the scene, not everyone would do that.

  4. I am not a deeply religious person. But I do believe in God. And I believe we are put in places and situations for a reason. Sometimes the big man upstairs puts us in situations. You were put there as a level headed person with something in common with the victim to make that 911 call. To have the patience. To stick around when others wouldn’t have. And to care. You were not some rubber knecking bystander. You had a connection with the victim that the others didn’t.
    Also, this is a great reminder to refocus your runner’s intuition. When running in an very active environment you gotta stay focused. As you know. But sometimes we get complacent to our surroundings and need a bit of a wake up. Just like if you were driving to work and you see an accident at a busy intersection. This was a sign for you to be very diligent when you are running.
    I am impressed and also very proud of you that you handled yourself so well in a very stressful situation, embraced your Samaritan nature, and are reflecting on the experience in order to learn from the event. Many people would have just blown the experience off at a number of stages in this experience.

  5. That is so scary and horrible. I am only imagine how terrifying it must be to have seen in person. Even just reading it makes me a little uncomfortable and shakey :(

  6. Terrifying. I’m glad you were there to suggest calling 911. I’ve had to call 911 once when we saw a car flip in front of us and we had a very similar interaction with them. It was frustrating how many times we had to repeat our location.

    I hope that she’s OK. I have never even *almost* been hit but I think it’s because I don’t run during high traffic times or in high traffic areas and I ALWAYS wait for the crosswalk sign for walk. And look both ways!

  7. So scary, but glad you’re okay! And good for you for calling 911. stay safe m’dear!!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had some close calls with cars, so now I never cross in front of a car unless I make eye contact with the driver and know they will stop.

    I agree with your comments about ear buds. It’s important to hear your surroundings, because often you will hear a car before you see it.

    I’m glad you were there to call 911. Thank you for being there for your fellow runner.

  9. Sobering post..

    Good for you with the 911 call.

    Hopefully the girl is OK.

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge