Help Save A Life

The shrill scream of the siren tore through the air while red white lights flashed…filling that sunny afternoon with an eerie dread.  My fingers were knotted together so tightly that my hands were hurting and my knuckles had turned white.  Still, I could not pull them away any more than I could stop the silent prayer that was echoing in my head.

“No, no , no, no, no! Please God, let him be ok. Please God, let him be ok. Please God, let him be ok.”

Hot tears streamed down my cheeks, not that I could feel it. The grainy coarseness of the sidewalk was a huge improvement from the hard gravel that had cut at my bare feet as I ran down the block, rushing to be where I stood now. I didn’t feel that, either. My attention was focused on the little 10 year old boy laying in the middle of the road, his bicycle crunched up in a heap, five feet from where the three men in blue polyester uniforms worked on him.

Intellectually, I knew I wasn’t the only person there.  A lady had come out from her house on that corner.  She’d seen it happen from her kitchen window.  Two other young boys were standing near me.  I think they were talking to me, but I couldn’t really hear them.

A nearly inhuman wail broke through the eerie blanket of litanous prayer I’d covered myself with.  Looking over, I saw my younger sister had arrived. Her entire body shook as she cried and wailed and did the things I was too afraid to do.  Somehow, in my mind, I thought…”if I don’t focus, if I let go, what then? I’m the oldest. They’re counting on me.”

My friend, Judy, was standing by my sister as I took her in my arms. “What happened?” she asked, “What happened to Jonathan?”

Pointing to the vehicle pulled to the side of the road I said, “He was hit by that minivan when he and the two Michaels went to cross the street to Michael B’s house.”

One of the men from the ambulance walked in our direction as the others moved my brother onto the immobilizing board before shifting him to the stretcher.

“Are any of you family?” he asked, looking at our little group.

“We are,” I said, still holding my younger sister in my arms.

“Where’s your parents?”

“My mom is at work at the local hospital. You should take him there.  My dad lives in the Philippines.”

“He needs more help than they can give there,” he said, eyes sympathetic. “We’ll be taking him to Loyola. Would one of you like to come along to the hospital? They’ll need information.”

I looked at my sister, prepared to send her so that I could call my mom and give her the details. She was hysterical. She would be of no help to them…and she was shaking her head vehemently, not wanting to get into the ambulance.

“Go ahead,” my friend Judy, said. “Mom and I will take care of your sister and call your mom.”

I nodded my head…suddenly feeling much older than my 15 years. Looking down at my feet, I tried to take a deep calming breath. It didn’t help.

“I don’t have any shoes on,” I mumbled.

“Here,” Judy said, “Take mine.”

And with that, I walked toward the longest ride of my life. No, not physically.  But mentally. Emotionally.

Why am I bringing up this 20+ year old memory? Because yesterday, on my way home from a quick run to the grocery store I saw an ambulance flashing it’s lights driving in the opposite direction. As I’m prone to do when I see those things, I pray for whoever is in that ambulance. But what really struck me was that the ambulance was headed to a big intersection and there were several cars in front of it. I heard them flip on the siren, so I looked in my rearview again. Those cars had NOT moved out of the way. In fact, it wasn’t until the ambulance was several feet behind the car in his lane that the person decided it would be prudent to move.

Things like this frustrate and make me angry because time can make a difference when talking about saving lives. The sooner the proper medical staff can work on a patient with the proper tools and in the proper environment, the better their chances. That person is somebody’s family member. How would you feel if it had been yours? Would you take your time? What if those couple minutes made the difference between life and death? How would you feel then?

As I continued my drive home, I noticed fire trucks and police cars, all with their lights flashing, on one of the side streets a couple blocks from mine. I couldn’t be sure if something had happened in someone’s home or if it was a car accident.  Either way, those people got a prayer.

In the end, my brother didn’t make it. He was brain dead on impact when his body hit the road. But while I sat in the passenger seat of that ambulance, staring out into the rush hour traffic of Chicago I was thankful for some of the people in our lives…and for these quick moving, quick thinking paramedics and emt’s who did everything they could to try to save him. I was also thankful for the brotherhood of firefighters and police officers. You see, one of the Michaels that was with my brother was the son of a local fire fighter. He was known all over the area for his work as an activist for Veterans and POW/MIA from Vietnam (the war he fought in). When he heard what happened, he put a blanket call out asking for help to clear the way for us. They responded…blocking off as much traffic and clearing the way for us as best as they could.

That day was devastating, but it was made easier by people along the way….sometimes friends, but sometimes strangers. So when you see an emergency vehicle coming and their lights are flashing, please…move over and let them through.  You never know when the life they may be trying to save belongs to someone close to you.

42 thoughts on “Help Save A Life

  1. Sara says:

    I am so sorry. You tell a story so well. I got drawn in even before I realized that it was about your brother and then it has that extra spine-chilling realization. I pray for passing ambulances as well. It drives me nuts when people don’t get out of the way.


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks Sara. Funny, my sister wound up being a nurse specializing in intensive services. So proud of her. Sometimes I stop and wonder, though, how much was because she wanted to help people who were going through what we did…
      Yeah…there’s a special kind of frustrated/anger in my heart when people don’t respect emergency vehicles.


  2. sheridegrom - From the literary and legislative trenches. says:

    It never ceases to amaze me when drivers don’t get out of the way for emergency vehicles–for the most part, even when we lived in DC, most drivers moved aside and there wasn’t really any place to move aside to there. I’m equally upset when people don’t stop for funeral possessions. To me it shows lack of empathy and manners that we can’t take a few moments out of our day to pay respect to a family and friends that’s lost someone they loved and cherished someone and they are now taking them to their final resting place. And – I’ve now added another son to yet another playlist. So appropriate.


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Oh, Sheri…that’s another one of my pet peeves. I, too, find it hugely disrespectful when people cut through a funeral procession. That happened at my grandfather’s funeral. I remember, though, a police officer caught it and those kids got pulled over and ticketed.
      At another one in Chicago, though, these people cut into the procession and wound up t-boning one of the mourners. There were several of us who witnessed it and pulled aside while it got reported. Needless to say, THAT driver found out the hard way that it’s best to stop.


  3. Katie says:

    I am so sorry that happened to your brother. I can’t tell you how angry it makes me when drivers don’t pull over for emergency vehicles. Any time I see an ambulance coming, I automatically assume there’s someone dying in there, and I pull my car to the right immediately.


  4. theforagingphotographer says:

    Kitt I’m so sorry about your brother – that’s a very sad story. I agree with you completely about time being of the essence. I’ve recently qualified as a community first responder; a voluntary role where you respond to 999 (I’m in the UK) calls and give first aid until the ambulance arrives. Those vital first few minutes can make a big difference, especially in cases of cardiac arrest. When you see an ambulance blue-lighting, it’s as likely to be on its way to a call as on its way to the hospital. I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t get out of the way of an emergency vehicle immediately – those seconds/minutes can mean the difference between life and death.


  5. L.J. Kentowski says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss and for what you had to go through. I lost my brother as well, but I was only 5, and he was only 6wks old. That day still sticks with me though, even when other memories from back then don’t. So I know how reliving it feels.

    My husband is a fireman and I know that he deals with people every day that just don’t care and hinder their work constantly. It’s extremely frustrating to hear his stories and to realize how many people out there just don’t get it. I hope that this message reaches many.


  6. lenwilliamscarver says:

    OH Kitt I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. Inadequate words I know, doesn’t matter yesterday, today or ten years ago the words are so insignificant. I know this because I lost my daughter last year, and words were like crashing waves to my ears.Nothing anyone said would bring her back so why listen, pretty messd up but growing stronger each day.
    as for the two pet peeves of not moving for emergency vehicles or stopping for funeral processions, I would like to add that a private vehicle with emergency flashers, speeding and generally running yellow turning to red lights generally has a medical emergency as well. it used to be that everyone pulled ove or got in the other lane when they see the flashers. Not anymore, I died due to heart attack daughter trying to get me to hospital and some idiot decided she was playing games and started playing my speeding up getting in front of her and slowing down to 20 miles an hour. and keeping her from changing lanes thankfully my other daughter had been called and was waiting on side of hiway and turned him in after getting him to play road games with her long enough to get me to er where I died and they brought meback. thankfully! sorry didn’t mean to hop or step on toes just trying to make others aware.


  7. Marie says:

    I’m sorry for your loss Kitt. I’ve never been in that sort of situation before, so I don’t really know the right words to say….but I can say that it frustrates me as well when I see people take their time to get out of an ambulances way. Or at an intersection they keep driving though either because they aren’t paying attention or just want to beat it through the intersection. It’s disgusting. I totally understand if they have to drive carefully to avoid an accident, though. It’s hard to tell sometimes.


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks…I just hope that someone, somewhere sees this and a lightbulb goes off about letting emergency vehicles get through. We should never be in such a rush that we can’t let someone with a life threatening challenge go first. 🙂


      • wordsurfer says:

        Definitely. I’ve never paid much attention to how people behave when an ambulance is on the way, but when I’ve been in the way, I and other drivers have got out of the way pretty fast. But yeah, there must be lots of idiots about who won’t take the sirens seriously. That’s really bad.


  8. J~Bird says:

    As the sister of a Fire Chief… It’s sad to say, but I am more worried about him getting in a wreck on his way to/from a scene then getting injured in a fire! I pray your words have made just one person re-think their actions when they hear sirens!

    P.S. Any time, any day, any where… whether it be a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on…you can have anything of mine…including my shoes…again 🙂


  9. Natalie Hartford says:

    Tears streaming down my face as I can only imagine your devastation and heart break. To go through something like that at 15 years old…my gosh…

    I cannot imagine people not pulling over for emergency vehicles. Like you, I always get the hell out of the way and send a prayer up to the heaven’s for whoever needs it…..pls…let them be ok!

    Thank you for sharing your story with us…


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