4 Jan

By 7:30am, 9-11-04, I was volunteering for the National Press Club’s 7th Annual walk charity 5k.  Blocks away, the President and First Lady were honoring 01’s murdered with moments of silence. I had decided to honor death with life.

A photographer who cannot leave her camera at home, I captured for history’s books a father tossing his toddler son in front of the 5k banner; children crowded Mike, a fox terrier straining to run with his master. Runners of ages 5 to category “77-99” donated a $25 dollar entry fee benefiting them with t-shirts, raffles, a bacon, eggs, pancakes and muffins breakfast, knowing this national day of mourning, they were helping others and having fun. The 16:25 minute winner and followers were logged in, by their numbered tags at the time chute. A handful of runners not paying the entry fee avoided clocking in. They just wanted to run with the pack. Gratefully, pack mentality this morning was to be charitable. 

Wending my way home I photographed a weekly religious gathering outside Planned Parenthood’s office. One Catholic University student told me moment’s earlier a mother walked her 12 year old daughter inside. I could not help but wonder where the mother was when her child’s innocence died. I recalled when I was 12, I was making dolls. Not babies. I noted the irony of the infamous day. Death. Life. 

Later, en-route to work, spotting a neighbor woman kneeling, spray painting a lamp’s concrete base black, I asked ‘what are you doing?’ The brightly carrot-topped woman said she saw a graffiti image of a black man with a cross she didn’t like it. Her four building mates taking her at her word, collectively screamed at my perceived insolence for challenging her not photographing the image before covering it up, or calling the police. “What good would that do,” her Ferrari capped neighbor scoffed. “Nothing now” I answered. “She made sure police can never determine if that image is part of a series of growing hate graffitis in the neighborhood or a personal expression. “ Ferrari cap spat towards me, “What would you know.” “Plenty,” I responded, “I’m a crime analyst. She defaced public property removing what may be a clue in America’s defense for homeland security.” I walked to the Red Line Metro, shaking my head, noting, ironically, carrot-top’s stained palms were dripping black.

The Metro conductor announced the first arrived train was terminating at Judiciary Square. I disembarked opting for the train going through to Union Station, getting in the second car from the front not my traditional two down from the last. 

Then I appreciated where my day took me.

A Goth young man, sitting catty-cornered, pitched across the lap of his seatmate. Seconds later, I realized he was not playing Marilyn Manson air guitar. Drool dripping from his mouth, his eyes rolled back in his head, he was in an epileptic fit.

The train’s emergency button failing to engage. I leapt to the platform running towards the driver’s window, yelling “ a passenger is having a seizure. Emergency. We need a doctor”

America, this 9-11, came to the aid of strangers. Train conductor Lakecha Baker, walking towards to the young man, called in the emergency. Four cars later I netted us a tattooed man, a nurse, an engaged EMT couple, and Dr. Lucy Balko in town for a conference. The EMT male pulled on his blue surgical gloves. “He always carries them on him,” his fiancee said. All passengers exited to Metro Center’s platform understanding saving a life supercedes dinner dates and Saturday night movies. BC White from Transit police arrived along with another station employee. Station 16’s EMS and DCFI team soon followed.

A single hand’s applause could be heard when the young man was gurnied to the hospital. Mine. No more than three others joined in clapping acknowledgements for a job well done by men and women rarely thanked for tasks we don’t want to do. We are a culture uncomfortable with illness and death, a generation with little respect for policemen, firemen and every day heroes.

The young man, age 17-21 knowingly had not taken his meds for 2 days. He is of the age that challenges living by defying death. While strangers acknowledged my quick thinking saved the Goth boy, I puzzled at the neighborhood strangers condemning my equally quick thinking which might save another life. Two weeks earlier a black man had been murdered blocks away.


Closing my eyes, I thought back to words I expressed in NY’s subway to an RNC colleague reading “angel” crystalled across my t-shirted breasts. “Everyone needs an angel in their life.”

 I exited Union Station, anonymous to the world, another DC’r going to work on a Saturday night.


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