One morning when I stepped off the Metro station elevator on my way to work, I almost stepped into a puddle of blood. My eyes followed the puddle to its source; a woman sitting on the floor of the station, with blood pouring from a gash in her knee that I guessed she’d gotten from falling on the escalator. Standing over her was a woman who was applying pressure to the knee with both hands to stop the bleeding. Judging from the identical name badges they were, the two women were probably part of what appeared to be a group of conference attendees, some of whom were huddled a few feet away from the two women.
Even though I had a train to catch, I slowed down and my hand immediately went to my cell phone, as I asked if there was anything I could do to help. Maybe it’s the Boy Scout in me, but I couldn’t walk by that scene without offering to do something, even though I’d likely miss the train and have to wait for the next one. I wasn’t the only one eiher. Several other commuters did the same thing. The woman applying pressure said that 911 had already been called, paramedics would be there shortly, and that everything was under control.
Slowly, those of us who’d stopped to offer some help moved on with her reassurances. My guess is that not stopping to see if help was needed was as unthinkable to us. The same can’t be said of the people who stepped over a stabbing victim, so they could make their purchases and be on their way.
As stabbing victim LaShanda Calloway lay bleeding on the floor of a convenience store at 25th North and Hillside, no fewer than five store patrons stepped over her to complete purchases — and at least one took cell phone pictures of her — before bothering to call 911, police said.
Police have been told that some of those photos landed on the Internet.
“It’s on the video,” said Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams. “She laid on the floor while people continued to do their shopping. They’re taking photographs. That’s our frustration. They didn’t call immediately. If people would have been calling us, who knows what the outcome might have been.”
Calloway, who was stabbed after an altercation June 23, eventually died at a hospital from her injuries.
…The video showed the 27-year-old Calloway struggling to her feet and collapsing three times without anyone helping her.
Worse, one woman who stepped over Calloway four times while shopping eventually paused to snap a photo of her with a cell phone.
And now, police are trying to track down photos of a dying Calloway that someone told them had been posted on the Internet.
“This is just appalling,” Williams said. “I could continue shopping and not render aid and then take time out to take a picture? That’s crazy. What happened to our respect for life?”
I think it goes deeper than a respect for life. I think it points to a diminished capacity for empathy that affects our entire culture, such that it become a liability and even a joke. Bill Clinton may have “felt our pain,” but years later that ethos and what it represents has become a joke to be printed on t-shirt and coffee mugs, as much as the goings on at Guantanomo Bay under the current administration have launched a similar line of Club Gitmo merchandise.
Last week it was a Texas mob that killed a man when he tried to stop them from killing a driver who’d just hit a child and then got out of the car to see if the child was hurt.
This week it’s convenience store customers stepping over a dying woman to make their purchases, while stopping long enough to take cell phone pictures they’d later post on the internet.
What will it be next week? Next month? Next year?
Perhaps the better question is this. What will we have become by then?