Monday, February 25, 2013

To Get Involved or Keep Running?

I've seen the plot line played out countless times on film, in books, on tv, someone needs help and countless passersby keep their heads down and keep walking.  I've always thought that I would stop.  I would help out.  When I was younger, I was certain that I would not put my head down and keep to myself no matter what the risk.  But, as I have gotten older and have more to risk (a wife and a small child), doubts have begun to keep in.  If I faced that situation what would I do?  Would I stop?  Would I keep going?  I've thought about it many time, but I was never tested until Sunday's run.

My wife works on Sundays and I stay home with our son.  She needs to be at work by 9am, so if I want to get in my long run, I must get up around 3:30am.  It's awful, but I do it so that I have enough time to get home, shower, and watch our son while she gets ready for work.  My alarm went off at 3:30am just as the sky opened up and rain began to pour, so I waited about 15 minutes to see the weather would change, which it did, so I got up drank my coffee and got ready for my run.  I was ready to leave at around 5:15, told my wife I loved her, checked on my son, and left.  As I stood outside my apartment in the dark waiting for a satellite signal for my watch, I look at the clouds moving across the darkened sky and wondered the rains would return.  I thought about taking my phone with me, but I loath carrying it on a run.  It took a while to catch a signal, and I thought about going in and getting the phone, but our cat has been making a mad dash for the door lately and the thought of chasing after a cat for the next hour while should be running was enough for me to leave it behind.  Now, I can't believe it.  I left my phone because I was afraid of letting my cat out.  Really!  Really!  How silly.

I ran through my neighborhood and turned onto Hillsborough Street and the corner of Gorman. The street is a high traffic street and runs from the Capital building westward, past the NC State Campus, and into Cary. I began to run toward NCSU.  From where I run it is well lit, but there are often a few homeless people and drunks that will cause a stir, but they are mostly harmless because the street is well patrolled by both Raleigh PD and Campus Police.  Also there are a few coffee shops that open early, so I feel fairly safe running on the street.  However, since I work at the University and receive the campus crime reports in my work e-mail, I know that there are some robberies and traffic accidents involving pedestrians, so I know that I need to remain alert.  As I ran past Cup A Joe, I could see the clock on the wall and that it was still well before 6am.  My mile marker was just up ahead and I was feeling good about the first mile.  midway through the next block, I saw something laying in the street in the middle of the right hand turn lane.  At first I couldn't make it out.  But then, I saw the shoes.

My mind began to race, and my first though was that the person had been hit by a car and was dead.  He was near the cross walk but not in it.  I thought someone hit a person and just left them to die, but just as I thought it I heard him call out "help me, someone help me."  As I got closer I got the feeling that he hadn't been hit by a car.  Maybe he's drunk.  He was young , collage age, he could be drunk.  But also somewhere in my mind fear started to creep in.  What if this is a trap.  The way he was laying and holding himself I couldn't see his hands.  He kept yelling and I didn't know what to do.  He wasn't looking at me a I approached, and I was kicking myself for leaving my phone.  I wanted to move him out of the street, but I didn't want to touch him if he was badly injured, and I was scared.  I'll be honest.  I couldn't see his hands and was afraid of what might be in those hands and somewhere deep inside I thought it.  Just keep going.  Put your head down and keep going.  Someone else will be by and help.  I am not proud of it, but the thought was there.  The street was dark, I was alone, and it wasn't one of the situations where things just happen and you don't have time to think.  I had time to think and part of me was saying "this is not you're problem.  But, it was my problem.  There is a person laying in the street yelling for help, and if it were my son, I would want someone to stop and help.

Just as I got right next to him, I saw the lights of a store on at the next corner, so I decided to run there for help.  He wasn't bleeding, and if he had been, I wouldn't have known what to do so I kept running and thought that if a car comes I can step into the street and direct them around him.  I hadn't spoken to him as I went by and when he saw me run past, he began to yell for me to help him.  I felt awful.  Even though I knew that I was going for help, the fact that he thought that I was leaving him, made me sick to my stomach.  His voice sounded more desperate and I yelled back that I was going for help.  Just then I saw a man and a woman walk out of the store just ahead of me.  I asked them to call 911, which the man did as we walked back towards the guy laying in the road.  He was young, holding his stomach and saying that it hurt.  I couldn't smell alcohol, didn't see vomit, and his voice wasn't slurred.  However, he wasn't saying much and wouldn't tell us what was wrong.  His clothes were dry, so he hadn't been out in the storm, and they were disheveled, but it was hard to tell if he was homeless or a young skater kid without the best personal grooming.  He was shaking and talking, but he never told us what was wrong the entire time we waited for the police.  Cars drove by, none stopped, they looked, slowed and kept on going.  Once the police, fire truck, and rescue squad arrived, I told them the little that I knew and asked if they need me to stay.  I was told I could go, so I continued on with my run without finding out what was wrong.  Over the next 10 miles I kept thinking about what had happened and one thing finally came to mind.  I am glad that I stopped.  And I hope that I will next time, but I won't be able to say for certain that I will until I find myself in that moment.  There are just to many variables, and I can understand the temptation to not get involved.  

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