Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Life & Death

Day 135 - 06 July 2011

A Wednesday…

Today I witnessed the immediate aftermath of a young Korean boy getting hit and driven over by a hagwon van. I finished my teaching and started the walk down the alley towards the main street. I heard the screech of the wheels and the screaming of some older women. I looked up, and only 20 feet away from my afterschool center, was a stopped yellow van, sitting crookedly at the in-block intersection and the head and arm of little boy outstretched from the rest of his body which was under the front right wheel. Judging by his size and the kids that usually play around my work area, he was probably a early elementary school student.

I apologize if this is too graphic. I don't intend to insult readers, or the young boy and his family. But I started this blog to talk about my Korea adventure, my feelings and how I change; this definitely was a life changing moment. There wasn't much blood, but he wasn't moving and nobody was attempting to pull him out from underneath the car. I wanted to rush to him and do it myself, but I do remember in first aid class that should he be alive, moving the body is not a wise decision. What was more sad to me, than seeing his body, was seeing his mom rush to the seen and fall to the ground screaming and crying at the top of her lungs. I will pray for her and her loss. I can't stop picture the boy and his mom's outstretched arms and kicking legs.

The intersection itself is located in a local home-y block. There's no lights, just like the blocks within most suburban neighborhoods in America. You're just supposed to drive slow and assume every intersection has a stop sign, even if it doesn't. The local middle school, park, some family owned Walgreens-like shops, smaller and older apartments, and of course my teaching center all surround this main intersection. Every time I walk through it, there's little kids all over the place. They play, buy toys from the local toy/stationary shop, and eat ice cream. I should also note, there are no sidewalks, just like most of the inner-blocks of Seoul, so the roads are used to play in, walk, bike, and for cars to drive through. It's pretty chaotic, but at the same time the system never seemed to fail, until now.

I stayed on scene for a while, keeping back my students and ushering them back to the afterschool center. Most of them saw what I saw, but I don't think they processed it the same. They kept on about their day with happy smiles on their faces, and asked what all the commotion was about. For the time we decided not to tell them, and keep them from going home and passing the scene. When the EMTs arrived they consoled the mother and talked to the people in the van (who at that point had not exited the vehicle). They didn't rush to the body, but eventually pulled the boy out, laid him on a cot, and covered him with a blanket.

Ironically, this happens the day after I watched Knowing. For those who haven't seen it, it's a Nicholas Cage movie in which he has a list of dates and coordinates of every major catastrophe that had and will happen within a 50 year period. It was a pretty dark film, and I woke up in a strange mood, thinking about fate, life and the sequence of events that affect it. For 1 whole hour of free time, I sat at a desk in the center, telling myself I should have my time sheet signed by the head social worker right then, which would allow me to leave promptly at 4:30pm. But I decided to be lazy and sit there. At 4:30 I packed my stuff and had my sheet signed on the way out. Had I just saved those few seconds of getting my sheet signed earlier, I may have well been there when the van was passing. Being a taller and more visible body, perhaps the van would have slowed down. I don't want to be a proud savior, or some hero in the newspaper, it's just crazy to know had I just done one thing differently, I may have been there for things to happen in a different sequence.

I guess what I really want to get out of writing this, is to stress that life is precious. I know that now. Seeing sad events in movies can't compare to real life. You really don't realize how much of an impact death has until something like this happens. I also hope that people read this and drive more carefully! I've had my moments of reckless driving and I snuck by and never hurt anybody, but it didn’t work out that way today. Everybody be safe! No more unnecessary death.

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