“Gun violence is real, they don’t come back.” ~ Stevie Wonder
There were skate boarders, bikers, active duty, civilians, all shades, sizes, and steroetypes moving passed me. I thought of the gun shots. I thought of the screaming, the crying, the “Man Down” words that I heard in my head. I didn’t know if it was real or not. My mind raced as the first thoughts that came to my mind was a vision of a gunman taking out the whole crowd. There were no sounds of the the ocean anymore. The smell of the salt air was gone. All I could smell was fear and when I looked at my friend Tony, I saw his soul in his eyes, and realized almost immediately that the only other emotion is love.
There was no medical support there yet. We had been standing just feet away when it all occurred. Running up the steps to the bleachers seemed to last an eternity, but nothing else mattered except to help victim. That’s what nurses do.
There was an older homeless women holding her lime green jacket against his neck trying to stop the blood. As I knelt next to this young man to assess the situation, the homeless women was yelling at me. She said she was a combat war Vet, a medic, and the smell of pure alcohol resonated with each word she spoke. This was not a time for judgement. She was there caring about another human being, who was now fighting for his life. His body began to convulse a bit, but it was at that moment that we had to get him to his side. Reaching around his back to get him to a safer position, his warm pool of blood created a glove for my hand. Universal precautions don’t exist out here on the streets. It wasn’t until police arrived that we had any gloves. He began to vomit, and the young Army medic next to me helped to keep the victim calm. Flashing in my mind was another moment of fear, but this young life was crossing over in front of me. Now it was visible to see the gunshot wound to his face, his back, his chest; overwhelming helplessness came over me. With no supplies I reached for his hand, I didn’t know what else to do.
I looked at his face, his fear, the hole in his cheek, his life leaving his young body and I yelled at him, “Look at me, look in my eyes”. We made eye contact for the first time. His big brown eyes searching for life, looking for help as I grabbed his hand with his blood over mine, as he squeezed it over and over saying, “Please help me, I can’t breath, I can’t breath.”
There were police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and many other public safety figures now. His hand was in mine as they started to pack his bullet wounds to stop the bleeding as his life was coming to its end. My time here was down as the parameedics and the men and women in blue took over now. The smell of blood continues to stay with me. The screaming and chaos flashing through my mind. I cried, I cried some more. Why can’t we all just get along?
Life. Death. Choices.