Everyone’s seen the video that captured the “inhumane” people of Hartford, Conn., as a pedestrian lay motionless in the roadway. It’s been played and replayed countless times around the world, with even the slightest movement studied as if this were the Zapruder film. (VIDEO: Hartford hit-and-run)
Sometimes you spot a glimmer of hope, like the van that pulls over right after Angel Arce Torres is struck by a car. But 20 seconds later, the van pulls back into traffic and is gone. There’s the man who seems to be stopping traffic, only to let it proceed as he walks past the body. There’s the motorcyclist who circles back toward the scene, but he’s outta there all too soon as well. What were they thinking? Who knows.
The video’s lack of sound further damns the passing drivers and pedestrians — the scene is eerily quiet when we expect a commotion. But people must have been screaming for help. Maybe people were shouting that someone should follow the car that struck Torres. That police cruiser coming down the street only 45 seconds after the impact — maybe the siren was blaring the whole time, alerting everyone to make way, that help had arrived. The video tells us only so much, yet people are using it as a measure of an entire city’s character.
Of course, all it might have taken was for one person to act differently. How often have we heard about those heroes at accident scenes — maybe a doctor, maybe an off-duty cop — who jump into action, pull people from burning cars, bark commands at other passersby and just try to keep order until more help arrives. In Hartford, no one led the way. But I don’t know that I could be that person, either.
A friend of mine was the driver in a hit-and-run accident years ago. I remember the fear that night, the fear that clouded all logic and sense, and ever since I’ve wondered how I would react in a similar situation. Of course I’d pull over. Of course I’d help. Of course I’d hold the victim’s hand and comfort him. Of course I’d risk my neck. Of course I’d be a hero.
It’s easy to say, but you don’t really know for sure if you are a hero until you’re called upon to be one.