At times life has seemed full of violence. Maybe I have seen more of it than is my share, or maybe I am just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have lived in two very crime ridden places, so maybe I have just seen more than my share of violent acts. This one took place when I lived in Detroit.
At the time, I was working on the children’s ward of a state mental hospital. I got off work at three in the afternoon, and was driving along the service drive to get to my on-ramp for the Lodge Freeway, State Freeway 10. To my left was the sunken freeway, and to my right I saw a group of people, encircling something. As I got closer, I could see two younger men, one with a 2″ by 4″ board,about 3 feet long, and he was hitting an older man with it.
I slowed to a stop, and saw that not one person, of perhaps 20 people who were watching, were doing anything to intervene. I saw the other young man pull a knife with about a six inch blade, and he shoved it into the older man’s ribs, under his arm. Then he drew it across the man’s throat. There was blood, but I could see it was not spurting, so the wound was not deep.
I got out of my vehicle, a pickup truck, and screamed.
“Leave him alone! Get away from him!” I got back in my truck because that had turned the two young assailants’ attention directly on me. They came toward me, one with the knife and one with his board.
I had locked my driver’s side door when I hopped back in. The other door was already locked. They tried both doors. They pounded on the doors. They cursed me. It was enough time for the old man to get away. My foolish behavior had probably been enough to save his life. I could see the rage in their glassy, drug glazed eyes. I could almost smell the dirty clothes they wore, stained, greasy, and tattered.
The crowd of similarly dressed onlookers saw that the action was over and they walked off in different directions. A coworker of mine named John, who had seen most of this, had stopped to ask if I was all right. I said I was. This was before cell phone days, so he went to call the police and then came back to wait for them to come.
We waited. We waited for more than an hour. As I learned was common in my next three years there in Detroit, the police did not come. It was a poor area, and no one there counted for much, at least not that day, and on that shift. John and I took the extra step of going to the precinct nearby. The desk cop listened to our statement, made a couple of scribbles on a pad of paper, and thanked us. That was all. We were dismissed, or may as well have been.
The next day, I called the hospital nearest that location. They said they could not tell me if the man had lived or what his condition was. He had made it to the hospital, and that was as much as they would tell me.
On that day and on many others in my life, I have been disheartened by man’s inhumanity to another who was suffering. I don’t know what the older man had done, if anything. It didn’t matter to me. I saw someone being attacked and my first thought was to try to help. I was not afraid. I was not able to judge. I am no hero. I only know that I did the right thing.