911. Do You Need a Police Car or An Ambulance?

First time in my life I’ve had to dial this number.  Was walking on the Key Bridge, after sunset, back to the car in Rosslyn and spot in the distance a dark lump on the sidewalk.  First thought was it was trash blown against the walk as it was very windy yesterday.

Pass closer and its a man, slumped unmoving against this wall and I walk on past thinking its going to be taken care of by someone else.  But I look back and understand that its going to be cold tonight, probably below freezing again and who knows what has happened, so I walk quickly back.

A jogger has stopped by as well and is checking to see if the man responds.  He has no phone, I call 911- wondering as we are literally in the middle of the bridge, which jurisdiction, DC or VA I’ll get.  The man begins to stir and I have a running dialogue with the dispatcher who is trying to get as much information as I can give him, while I try to make sense of what the man on the ground is trying to say over the noise of the traffic in bound to Georgetown.

The jogger and I gather the man is homeless, and very hungry, so hungry he cannot stand.  I had stuff, not healthy stuff, but food in my backpack, but was told by the dispatcher not to give either food or drink- understand why.

The man is trying to talk to us, but he’s not making much sense except he’s very hungry and he wants help.  He begins to cry. 

Not too much longer, we hear the sirens and spot a fire truck and ambulance on M Street, making a left onto the Key Bridge, we flag the responders down, and who have to have to make a U-turn on the bridge to get to us.  From one of the responders, this man was picked up last night in Georgetown.  The homeless man offers his hand for me to shake, I take it even though I would probably recoil otherwise; being down so low and with only a whisper of dignity, who am I to deny him a handshake.  Ask the responders if we are good, am told ‘yes’, the jogger and I shake hands and we go our ways.

Some might say the man probably is to blame for falling so far down, that he could pull himself up by his bootstraps if he wanted to.  Found it very ironic that while the jogger and I were waiting for the responders to come, most of the legal review team at The Firm had gone out for drinks and noise.  I declined as not having a job from Monday; I need to spend my money wisely.

All I can say is seeing a man so weak with hunger and so beaten that he cries like a child is enough to shake me at least to the core, and provide much to think about. 

Funny thing is I don’t much feel like eating dinner now.


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5 Responses to 911. Do You Need a Police Car or An Ambulance?

  1. mizunogirl says:

    You did a good thing to not just walk by him. Rest assurred, he will be fed the requisite turkey sandwich and ginger ale at the ED and probably be much better. I’ve heard there is a large homeless population in the DC metro area. Your kindness is worth quite a lot.

    • Had considered putting 10 or so ddollars in the guy’s pocket, but think that would have caused problems for him: how would he explain to whoever how he got that money.

      Gald he got indoors; it did go well below freezing last night. And yes, there are many homeless in DC. Quite the counterpoint I think

  2. Had considered putting 10 or so ddollars in the guy’s pocket,” — That would’ve been an act of kindness in a situation where one was needed. How does he explain it? Does it matter?

  3. It’s so easy to pass on by someone without getting involved. Hopefully, you brought a little light into this poor fellow’s life…

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