On October 23, 2014, at 12:30 PM, on a mission for The Guardianship Project of the Vera Institute of Justice, aboard my Lightning Phantom bicycle, 13 miles from home, I stopped at a red light in Brooklyn. I wore a brilliant orange jacket and a helmet with a flashing white strobe.
A black SUV rounded the corner — on the wrong side of the street!
B A N G !
The impact broke my left lower leg in three places and knocked me to the pavement.
A crowd gathered. The pain was excruciating. I calmly asked a bystander please to call 9-1-1. The SUV driver approached me. Putting myself in her shoes, my first words to her were, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.” She replied with nonsense about how the crash was my fault. Later she told a police officer that I had rear-ended her SUV on my speeding bicycle.
Witnesses confirmed that I was stopped at the traffic light, that the driver drove on the wrong side of the street, and that her SUV hit me head-on. It’s all in the investigating officer’s report. But the cop did not issue a ticket because (he told me as I lay in the ambulance) he did not see the crash.
After 8 hours in the ER and 2 hours of surgery, I went home the next afternoon with the titanium rod and screws you see below. The hardware is permanent.
Here I am 3 weeks later in the jacket that, to the amazement of the police officer, the driver didn’t see. This crash was no “accident”: the driver chose to make an illegal turn and to look away from where she was going.
Six months post-crash, with the help of medical professionals and the love and labor of family and friends who cooked and cleaned and phoned and wrote and kept me company, I have shed crutches and cane. I am relearning to walk. I am biking again. I joined Families for Safe Streets to help protect NYC pedestrians and cyclists from injury by reckless drivers. (This New York Daily News photo shows me at a January rally at City Hall. The yellow sign reads “Survivor”. The photos are of FSS members’ loved ones who were killed by motor vehicles.)
As you read this, as when I write, we are separated from deadly electricity by a wisp of insulation. Body and mind rely on a delicate balance of water and minerals. On the road, inches separate us from metal missiles guided by fallible humans. Et cetera.
It’s a near thing, is life. We can’t dwell on that, lest we be paralyzed.
But sometimes we get a reminder.
After 9/11, when one of my children shrank from airplanes overhead, I said, we can’t live like Wile E. Coyote, holding a flimsy umbrella (as if it would help!). We go about our business, try not to do anything stupid (good luck with that!), and get on with life.
My life includes Riding for Human Rights. I will get on with it.
Please subscribe to this blog (look above the “Donate” button at the right or the bottom of this page), or check back again soon, for news on this year’s destination and on America’s refugee protections that, like life, hang by a thread.
And be careful out there.