Thursday, 8 September 2011

Invaluable Collection or Intrusion ?

On returning from lunch with sis the other day, I got to a traffic light about half-a-block from my workplace.  As I got to the intersection to wait on the walk sign, I heard 'Oooh!"  Not in an "Ooh and ahh" way, but in that guttural tone that makes you know, instantly, that something has gone terribly wrong.

I looked at the bus/coach that had just stopped in the intersection while making a left and, almost instinctively, looked beneath it.  There they were, his two legs.  No, they hadn't been severed.  They were still attached to his body.  But, that was all I could make out from his lying right next to the left front wheel.

At the next signal, I crossed and got to a better vantage point.  It was an elderly man - maybe late seventies/early eighties, white, gray-headed. There he lay.  Still.  Just as it had happened, one woman literally took off!  She dashed across the road (from where I had been waiting at the light).  By the time I got to the other side, getting a better look, she was kneeling beside him, her phone to her ear.

Of course, a few dozens of us - on both sides of the street -  had, by now, stopped to look.  I had seen the driver make a mad dash from the bus, leaving the door open (of course!), round the front and, again, by the time I got to the other location, he was also already kneeling by the man's side.  So, there were about four people - the woman on her cell; a bulky looking guy picking up the man's bag of grocery; the driver and a police officer who had been on the beat at that intersection (or pretty close by), leaning his shoulder in as he spoke on his device.

There were a few things that struck me as I stood there.  One, I got there after the accident occured. (Somehow I think I need to make that clear in writing.)  I saw some of what had happened just after.  He lay there, seemingly unable to move, while the four people did what they were doing as they/we waited for an ambulance to arrive.  I wondered how many people had actually seen it happen.  Y'know?  In real time.  Next, it somehow made sense (and I'm not trying to justify my non-involvement), that the folks who were close to him on the scene, were not being encumbered by anyone else.  It took about five minutes for an ambulance to arrive.  It was at about this point I noticed something I hadn't even thought of before.  A man stopped close to me, held up his smartphone, and started some form of recording - not sure whether they were still or moving shots.  Now, I'm pretty sure that there were quite a few of us within that gathering with smartphones.  Yet, he was the only one I noticed.  Whether he was the only one doing it, is not really my point.  My thoughts are going to the why.  Why did some of us decide that this was a moment not to be captured in picture or video?  Even after I saw him do this, I still did not have the "urge" to record.  I dunno.  Wasn't it like a sort of intrusion on the poor gentleman's demise?  And, what the heck would I be doing with that shot anyway?  What place would it have in my collection?

I'm not sure at what point he stopped recording.  All he'd got from me was that glance.  It could have been after one of the paramedics stooped by the old man with a flat board-looking contraption.  Maybe it was after they gently turned him  - he had been lying on his belly with one side of his face to the ground - revealing the other bloodied side.  I grimaced.  Maybe it was after the paramedic, after assisting with that manoeuvre, rethought his choice, went back to the ambulance and returned with the gurney.  At whatever point it was, I imagine that the man and his phone had got their fill and he'd moved on.

When the gurney came out, that was when I moved on.  I told myself that he was in very capable hands; prayed for his speedy recovery and left the scene.  I really hope that he fares well.

My question lingered...lingers, however.  Who thinks to record an accident like that?  I mean, it's something that happens all the time.  Unfortunately.  And some people are going to record - hence the terms, iReporter and Citizen Journalists, etc.  But, in the heat of the moment, why does the thought not even occur to some of us who are social media users with our smartphones at the ready?  Why do some of us not even think to capture such a moment for posterity or sharing or sending to a media house or whatever?  Opting, instead, to behold it through no other lens than our own?  I understand that this has been an on-going debate for journalists - especially photo-journalists.  If you just happen to be there when something goes horribly wrong, do you rush to help?  Or, do you grab your camera, start recording and hope beyond hope that "someone else" will assist, while you capture a key piece for your story later on? 

I imagine that others would ask, why write about it in a blog - even days after; even as I ask my own provocative questions?

Could the answer be as simple as, "To each her own"?


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