Last evening I was walking out of CKNW, after my first afternoon drive shift filling in for Steele and Drex. It was a fun and frenzied four hours of radio, we covered a lot. I was exhilarated and exhausted. For those who don’t know, CKNW is located in the TD Tower in the heart of Vancouver. The iconic intersection of Granville and Georgia — it’s like Bay and Bloor in Toronto — read: BUSY.
It was 6:07pm. I was headed for the bus home, walking west on Georgia toward Burrard Street, when I paused at the intersection of Howe and Georgia. Howe is a one-way street that runs south .. a popular route to get through the city and onto the Granville Street bridge. There is, perennially, a line up of drivers waiting to make the right from Georgia onto Howe — and there is an “advance” green arrow to assist with clearing that line-up.
I stood at that intersection, saw a few folks make the tell-tale false start of crossing when the light turned green — rookies might not know that the green arrow sees pedestrians put on pause until that traffic turns.
The arrow ended it’s call to drivers to turn, and up pops the white-light walking man symbol — so we started to walk. Leading the pack of pedestrians coming toward me was a young woman with her earbuds in. She didn’t look both ways before crossing, she trusted the street light walking symbo,l and launched into the intersection. Unfortunately for her, there was one driver trying to sneak through on that, now dark, advance arrow. The driver knew that he was late through and veered into the centre lane of Howe to avoid the throng of walkers….he didn’t avoid them all, he didn’t see her until it was too late.
I watched as the car hit the woman, hard. She was flung like a rag-doll. It’s forever etched in my memory.
I gasped and immediately looked to my phone to call 911, not knowing what I might see on the other side of the now stopped vehicle. To my relief, the woman was standing — albeit in significant shock. Walking to her, another witness and I took lead and effort to get her to the sidewalk to check if she was OK. One kind and quick thinking man pulled a newspaper box down on it’s side for a make-shift seat.
A collection of strangers started crisis management as if we were a team who’d known each other forever.
I’d not spoken to a 911 dispatcher before so began the navigation of these new waters on the fly. First “police, fire or ambulance?” (ambulance) — “ok, I’m connecting you”. One click and I’m on with a paramedic dispatcher: “what is your exact location” (700 Howe St. at W Georgia) “What happened?” (pedestrian involved MVA) “are you with the pedestrian?” (yes) “Is she bleeding?” (no), “is she breathing?” (yes), “is she conscious?” (yes), “how old is she” (“how old are you?” – “29”), “what’s her name?” (“what’s your name?” “Ashley”). “The driver, is the driver there” (yes), “ask him to put his flashers on” (ok). He was rattled, worried, knowing he turned late — wanted to tell folks that he was turning on the green arrow (he didn’t) but knew that now was not the time.
Calm and clearly asking questions of consequence — she guided me. The ambulance arrived perhaps 3 minutes later. The Paramedics jumped into their process, I explained what I knew. One asked “have you given names and numbers to anyone?” (no) “Ok, I will take those down and you can leave.”
They took my name and number and said “you can go”. So I did. In shock, wanting to cry, wanting to tell everyone walking with serious text/phone/music/earbud distraction to STOP that for a few minutes in the name of safety.
When I returned home from my bus-ride I had that cry — hugging my man — grateful that Ashley was ok, grateful that Ashley wasn’t me, that it wasn’t far worse.
Life can change in an instant. Let this be a reminder to keep ourselves aware, not run that yellow light or charge across the street mid-block in the name of saving time — you might just find you save your life.