At about 9:15 this morning, as I was walking from my apartment down Lexington Avenue to the gym where I do my weight-training, I noticed a cluster of people gathered at the corner of 63rd Street — and finally the sound of screeching sirens penetrated my early-morning daze. What was happening?
In one of those spontaneous, comforting, crisis conversations, I began talking to two women near me. “I was coming out of Equinox when I saw a car hit the side of a building!” said one woman. “I was in a taxi and heard three gunshots,” said the other woman. “A guy was fleeing, and he had a gun, so the police shot him! And a car ran off the sidewalk and hit some people outside the American Express office.”
One of them warned me not to walk any further down Lexington, because “there might be guns lying around.” I never worry about things like that, and I was curious to see the intersection for myself—the rubber-necking instinct.
Well, I saw much more than I expected. I’d assumed that this had all happened some time before, but I must have walked up just a few minutes later — as evidenced by the fact there were no TV or newspaper crews there, just a crowd of people, all of them talking on their cell phones. I overheard a woman say, “It’s just like a Law and Order episode!”
And a man’s body was still lying in the intersection of 63rd and Lexington. He looked dead.
Nearby, a crew was trying to fit a protective helmet onto the head of the man who’d been trapped against the side of the building by the car. They had a stretcher ready, but were having trouble getting him pulled away.
More and more police and official vehicles were arriving every minute.
It gave me a strange feeling: that on an ordinary, sunny morning, in a mundane, familiar place, such violence could break out, just a few minutes before I passed — and to see a man lying motionless in the street, right where he fell — to see such dramatic change, and so much activity, and then just to walk right by it. I was untouched; I had no role to play.
As soon as I got home, I went online and found a news story. According to the police, at about 9:15 this morning, Transit police were chasing an SUV down Lexington when it ran a red light at 63rd and struck another car, which hit the American Express office and pinned several pedestrians. The SUV driver jumped out wielding a knife, so the police used pepper spray and shot him in the stomach. He’s in the hospital in serious condition – zoikes, he sure looked dead. Six other people were hurt.
The surprising, unsettling, unattractive thing I discovered in myself — and I don’t know if this reflects badly on me or is just a feature of human nature — is that seeing all this actually boosted my mood after the first horrified shock wore off. I felt energized; lucky; far more aware of the beauties of the day.
I just discovered a blogger who’s thinking along much the same lines as I am with the Happiness Project: How To Live. This is a blog that tackles big questions — lots of interesting material there.