In the moment, it was hard even for those of us steps away to know what had happened. A bicycle, a school bus, an improbably loud collision, a figure thrown clear, screeching brakes. Then we were all running and calling 911 at once, as if this one moment justified telephones. We actually put our hands over our mouths in horror; we actually said, “Oh my God!” although I don’t know what we would have done if we had never seen a movie or read a book or heard language.
A few people were really useful. Someone retrieved the bent bicycle from where it had landed. An electrical-company employee quickly maneuvered his truck so that the intersection where the prone figure lay, unconscious, was cut off to traffic. A man in a Yankee cap took over the situation and waved us away. “Space!” he said. We could already hear the approaching sirens from one of the many calls. Someone thought for sure she had seen a foot move, which we all agreed was very good. Other people had gathered around to do nothing by this point, forming a sort of vigil, because walking away was unthinkable.
Then the EMTs were there, and the police, and we were not needed. “It wasn’t a big bus,” a woman was saying avidly into her telephone, “but it wasn’t a short bus, either.”
Later, when it was all over, I was passing that intersection again, and I stepped into a bodega. “Do we know anything?” I asked. The boy behind the counter looked grave. He shook his head as though it wasn’t a stupid question.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.