Yesterday I was out for my daily walk along Palisade Avenue in Jersey City when I heard sounds 50 yards ahead of me I had never experienced before: Tires screeching on asphalt; a thump; crushing metal. Ahead of me people leapt out of their cars and from their porches. A cop on his lunch hour bolted from his parked cruiser with a sandwich still in his hand.
Three nurses on a smoking break flicked their cigarettes in the gutter and ran into the middle of the street.
As I approached, a crowd of 30 onlookers gathered on both sides of Palisade Avenue, an infamous, and deadly street in the Jersey City Heights.
An Ambulette and a small grey car were entangled in the middle of the street. It looked like the Ambulette was trying to turn against traffic into the hospital and the grey car did not react fast enough to slow down enough to avoid an accident.
When I saw what appeared to be a pool of blood trickling from the center of the crushed metal I vowed not to look and to respect the process of the professionals who were tending the situation. I kept my eyes pinned on the sidewalk in front of me.
All around me people were on their cell phones calling 911 and, as awful as it sounds now, I couldn’t help but think then that if you were going to be in an accident, the best place to have it happen was 10 feet away from the Christ Hospital Emergency Department entrance.
I soldiered onward with my walk while the sound of sirens rose behind me.
I returned to the scene a half hour later on my way back home and, while the crowd has dissipated a bit, there were those who stood along the sidewalk shaking their heads and gawking. Snippets of conversation floated out to ears and into cell phones…
“A little girl.”
“…Crossed too early.”
“Died on impact.”
I still refused to look at the center of the accident where the two Fire Department trucks and four uniformed police officers were beginning to gather, and while I admired them for doing a job I would never want, I could not defer a rising fury at the onlookers who were still standing around not helping, not moving along, but seeming to take a grotesque delight in slaking a bloodthirst from the body of a
child pinned dead in the street.