[quote cite=”Mother Theresa”]I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.[/quote]
There were only four of us on the platform today. Myself, a young man, an older man in a black suit, and an even older man in a wheelchair. I had seen the man in the wheelchair come into the metro station. He bumped into the wall a couple of times after he left the elevator, but he navigated his electric chair just fine through the ticket gates and onto the second elevator down to the platform. I thought nothing of it.
Many years ago, mom would take my brother and me out on the town in the evenings (and even some nights) on “patrol.” I don’t know why she did it, but she showed us to go out of our way to help people. Once in a while, we’d pull over and help someone with a flat tire or an overheated car. Mostly, nothing would happen, and we ended up just driving around town. Those were the old days, when Juarez, Mexico, was not the epicenter of the drug wars.
I heard a crashing sound on the metro platform, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I walked around a pillar to see that the man in the wheelchair had fallen off the platform and onto the tracks. The man in the suit and the young man ran to the side of the platform. I ran up the stairs to the station attendant booth, yelling at her that a man had fallen onto the tracks. The attendant and another man from the transit authority came out of the booth and started walking toward the stairs. I then turned around and ran back down the stairs. The young man and the man in the suit were looking off the side of the platform at the man in the wheelchair.
The man in the wheelchair laid on the tracks, bleeding from his head, his baseball cap a couple of feet away.
I’ve only seen one other person bleed so profusely from their head like that. I won’t go into details about that. Not yet. I told my wife that I’m lucky to have worked with blood all my life. Otherwise, I’d be afraid of it by now. As I saw the man in the wheelchair laying on the tracks, I was sucked back to that awful day in April… But only for a few seconds.
The young man and I jumped onto the tracks and grabbed the wheelchair man. The man in the suit helped us drag him back onto the platform. All the while, I kept looking down the tracks, expecting to see a train coming at us. I was thinking of the man who fell into the train tracks in New York and the people around didn’t really try to help him out. They tried to signal the train, but they didn’t really help the man out of the tracks. A reporter even had time to pull out his camera and take a picture of the man just before the train hit him.
Once we had the man on the platform, we jumped onto the platform and dragged him a little further from the edge. The station attendant and the other transit authority employee came around a minute later. A few seconds after that, the transit authority police arrived. They started working on him as I started trying to catch my breath. The run up and down the stairs, the jumping into the track well, and the lifting of the man (and then his wheelchair), had me very out of breath. I just kind of fell back and waited for whatever was going to happen to happen.
I’d like to live in a world where jumping on train tracks to help someone is not the exception but the norm. Of course, people falling on train tracks off metro platforms shouldn’t be the norm. I mean that the norm should be for people to run to the aid of others without thinking twice. People who do these kinds of things should not be celebrated. Thanked, maybe… Not celebrated.
But we don’t live in that world, do we? I got a call from a transit police officer this afternoon. He thanked me for going to the aid of the fallen man. He said that the man was in the hospital. When he thanked me, I said “anytime” in response. I mean it, but my wife and I had a discussion about the Johnny-on-the-spot syndrome that I seem to be suffering as of late. I don’t want these things to be happening around me “anytime.”
Not necessarily “anymore,” because bad things always happen and wishing them away won’t make them away… But, yeah, I need a break from “anytime.”
On the ride home after this whole event, I got to thinking about the utilitarian value of saving that man. As we lifted him onto the platform, he felt like just a bag of bones. He was missing a leg and was wearing a diaper. Why was there such a strong drive within me to save him? Someone explained to me that I did it because we’re all part of “the pack.” When one of us is in danger, it’s up to the rest of us to fight off that danger and help our pack stay strong. Someone else explained to me that I did it because I want someone to come to my aid if I should get in trouble myself.
Both reasons seem plausible, but they also seem so selfish. On the one hand, I want to keep MY pack safe. On the other, I want someone to come to MY aid if something happens to ME. Whatever happened to maybe I’m just holding myself up to a higher standard, to a code of conduct that prescribes that I come to the aid of someone, anyone, if they are in danger?
Yeah, that’s still a little selfish, isn’t it?
Anyway, that’s what happened today, and I just wanted to get it down in writing and out to the world for those of you who saw the tweets and didn’t put two and two together and maybe “digest” it all a little more. Thanks for reading.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.