Last night, Husband and I attended a wonderful benefit in a glorious ballroom downtown. On Wall Street. During dinner, I sat between one of my very best friends - who is due soon with her first child - and another woman I know, but not very well. There were two no-shows at our table and, as a result, no one sat on the other side of this woman.
At one point during the evening, when my friend and I were deep in conversation about the most essential of baby items, the woman next to me started to cough. I stopped talking to my friend and asked the woman if she was okay. Others at my table did the same. She couldn't speak and shook her head no and started to point to her stomach. It was plain as day that she was requesting the Heimlich Maneuver.
I was the only one next to her. The only one. And guess what I did?
Nothing but panic. I jumped up. And this is all a bit of a blur because I was a bit traumatized, but I think I repeated something like She is not okay. Someone help her. And a nice guy across the table raced around and behind the woman, threw his arms around her midsection, and squeezed. Moments later, the woman was fine. Understandably shaken, but fine. She opted not to finish her filet.
And I sat there, prim and proper in my plush seat, shoulders back like a lady, shaking. In my mind, I told myself that the hero of the moment must be a doctor. That he knew what to do and that's why he did it. But no. He was not a doctor. He was just a good guy.
A good samaritan.
But what does that make me?
At the end of the night, Husband and I said our goodbyes. We walked out into the night. Hand-in-hand, we strolled to the corner to hail a taxi. One pulled up and we hopped in. Still shaken, I cuddled up to my man as we meandered city streets.
And then. Then because of a red light or a bit of traffic - I don't exactly recall - we stopped in front of a massive construction site. And it took Husband saying it, but then it hit me. It really hit me. It was in this very spot that two vast towers once stood. Almost a decade later, it is still a work in progress. A gash on our city's side. A humble hole in our skyline.
And so. I was forced to remember. To go back. I recall, and vividly, hearing about all of those heroes aboard a plane who rushed upon evil to save lives. I recall, and vividly, hearing about all of the firemen and policemen and regular people who raced into crumbling buildings to help people other than themselves. I remember these things. They are still there. Here. Just under the surface.
I climbed into bed last night knowing full well that I'd have a hard time sleeping. And I was right. I lay there. Safe and snug next to a slumbering man. My man. Next to a purring cat. My cat. My heart, my healthy heart, danced with fear and awareness. My mind, my living mind, buzzed with images. Of a glowing pregnant friend. Of a glowing ballroom chandelier. Of a rare slab of steak. Of a woman in distress. Of a city stricken.
And as I nodded off, something floated about me. That something? Forgiveness. In the poetic dregs of a long and draining day, I told myself something. Something true.
I am not a bad Samaritan. I am an imperfect person. A work in progress.
Trying. Failing. Thriving. Flailing.
And today is a new day, isn't it?
- Have you ever had a similar experience where someone in your midst was in distress? How did you react?
- My sister seems to think that if I were alone with this woman I would have acted differently, I would have done something. Do you agree?
- Have you had moments - or a string of moments - in your life when you were slapped with an awareness of the fragility of life and the good fortune of being alive?
- How often do you think of September 11th?