Monday, August 19

Heroes Among Us

I don't know what actual event this image belongs to, but today it is an appropriate fit for what I saw in the intersection of 7th Street and Camelback (North Central Phoenix) around 8PM.

The light was red for North and South bound traffic. My suburban nosed up to the crosswalk, my two dogs panting contentedly in the back after a long walk in a beautiful neighborhood off Central Avenue at sunset. Everything about tonight changed in a split second; cars proceeding East suddenly lurched as they applied their brakes, hesitated, and then continued forward. Instantaneously my eye caught the commotion in the crosswalk to my left.

Two people were standing the the middle of the street, against the red light. They were carrying multiple plastic grocery bags stuffed to capacity. One was a woman who appeared to be physically and mentally impaired. Her bowed legs splayed out an an extreme angle, accented in the deepening night by the bright yellow sweat pants she wore. She seemed disoriented. Her gait was hugely awkward, she teetered precariously as if she might lose her balance and go sprawling into traffic at any moment - traffic which was still on-coming! To my horror she lunged with her burden swinging heavily from each arm several steps outside the cross walk as if she would continue to the middle of the intersection!  Her companion scrambled to the safety of the sidewalk while she stopped, shoulders stooped, her body wavering equal to the motion of the swinging bags she carried. 40mph traffic in fact was approaching the intersection from the West, and I involuntarily gasped out loud at the carnage I feared would surely happen next.

Then I saw him.

Entering the intersection West-bound, he had parked his car against the green light without taking time to activate his emergency lights - leaving his driver's door gaping open. 

It was this car, a Sidekick JX. The man was young, maybe early 30s. Three lanes of cars behind him entered my peripheral vision.

I watched him in one, smooth and confident motion take several swift, long steps sideways towards the woman in danger  and  forward into three lanes of on-coming traffic with his arms spread wide, open palms and outstretched fingers signaling drivers to halt. His long-sleeved white shirt glowed neon in the headlights. His face was expressionless, washed in light. I didn't hear screeching brakes, which surprised me. Actually, I can't explain how two people directly in harm's way during heavy, fast-moving city traffic were not tonight's grim headlining late news.

Miraculously, the bow-legged woman hobbled grotesquely to the safety of the sidewalk. The young man returned to his car and completed his left turn South-bound onto 7th Street a few seconds after the light had changed. It was while he was driving in front of me I caught up to him and saw what type of car he drove. I wanted to yell across to him through my passenger window an acknowledgement that I had seen what he had done, but he changed lanes and was gone.

All I could think about as I drove home was how someone, in the typical chaos of a big city breathless and impatient with asphalt still boiling from the day's heat, had observed something extraordinary and in a flash had decided to use his own body as a living ensign to save total strangers. He had exchanged words with no one. His deed was accomplished within a matter of seconds. Then he was gone, and it was done. The roar of the city buffeted my face with hot, humid night air through my open windows.

Heroism is a curious thing. Why this seemingly innate voice powerfully beckons some people to action in a crisis while others are paralyzed with mindless fear or are impassively oblivious, is one of the most beautiful and capricious features of human nature. 

Thank you, Captain JX.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Wow! Glad you saw what you did instead of the alternative. I'm not sure I could have acted so quickly in moving traffic. He really was a hero.