3:15 p.m. Monday. The scanner toned, “Car versus pedestrian, North Broad Street, in front of Garf’s Deli. Norwich stations.”
I ran through the pouring rain a block down from my office toward a woman’s screams. Before I even got around the corner, I could see the bright strobing of red and blue emergency lights flickering down the street, across the wet pavement and side buildings.
Even in the downpour, people stepped outside and stared at the half-dozen police, fire and EMS personnel who frantically clustered around a woman lying in the middle of the road. Directly 30 feet in front of her, I could see an old man sitting in his car; the whole windshield was smashed in a spider web of broke glass.
He nervously stared into his rearview mirror while anxiously massaging the back of his hands as if he was trying to get ink off the skin.
I felt a strange combination of horror and relief. At least she didn’t go under the vehicle.
The woman could be heard trying to talk to the rescuers and occasional sounds of gritted distress and pain rolled out. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a dozen other spectators on the sidewalk and kept trying to remind myself not to take any pictures directly of the victim. A kid, not older than 12, stared deeply into the unfolding events and then looked at me. I went to tell him she’d be all right, but stopped myself because I didn’t really know.
I pulled my eyes from the scene in front of us and looked around to see that most of the other spectators were in a similar gaze of loss and stunned absorption.
The rain began to ease and the rescue workers heaved the woman, now in a neck brace, onto a gurney.
As gentle as they were trying to be, you could hear clenched groans and a sudden yelp at the moment of lift. She was then taken to the back of the ambulance and it hurried off, south in the direction of Binghamton. Not north to the hospital just up the street. I couldn’t stop my mind from processing that it was a bad sign.
The ambulance gone, policemen now rotated among those left in the crowd to find out what had been seen – a few Samaritans stepped forward. I kept track of the ones officers talked to and waited until they finished before I conducted my own interviews.
The general consensus was that the elderly gentleman driver had never seen the accident coming until the glass right in front of his face shattered. A few citizens noted the sudden emergence of the 20-minute downpour and held Mother Nature to her fair share of blame.
The woman, I’d imagine, was darting across the street trying to escape the rain a few yards outside the lines of a crosswalk.
The driver now stood surrounded by tall police officers and looked to be gesturing an explanation with his hands. He kept shaking his head – not at police, but in small fits of furrowed disbelief. His eyes darted to the site where the woman laid only a few minutes ago and with a look of sad disgust, he then turned his back away from the area and his attention to police. Although some people might not, I felt bad for him too.
Traffic again began to flow slowly by and the small, concerned crowd began to fade back into the buildings along the street. The rain continued to dwindle and the pool of blood in the middle of the street was carried away by the runoff. A few minutes later, the rain stopped completely and the sun made an appearance.