A different kind of post on this Father’s Day…
A few years ago, I traveled to Vienna, Austria with my father.
It was my junior year of college and I just finished a study abroad in Eastern Europe. My father flew over at the end of my trip because he had some business to attend to in Prague before traveling with me to Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich.
My father and I are actually pretty good travel buddies. We never really have a set plan, but more of a general idea of what we want to do in any given city. We set a pace of doing whatever the heck we want, whenever we want.
The morning of our first day in Vienna, we ventured out from our hotel to explore the city. We spent time in a local outdoor market. We walked through a charming park and saw a one-legged accordion player (pictured above). We were waiting to cross the street when it happened.
I vividly remember waiting for the cross walk to light up, just talking and joking with my dad. It’s surprising that my father was not trying to jaywalk because he’s a New Yorker and notorious for jumping the gun when crossing the street.
Across the street was an older man in pants and a blazer holding something in one arm – a newspaper maybe? He kinda reminded me of a spry Mr. Rogers.
He was looking towards traffic, hopping across the street when the car hit him.
I will never forget the sound of a car hitting someone. For the life of me, I cannot describe it. I guess the way the movies make it sound… but that’s not real. This was.
The man landed on the road like a rag doll partly on his side, partly on his stomach. Facing us.
It’s like the world was immobile at that moment. I was frozen; my dad was frozen; the pedestrians on the other side of the street were frozen. No one moved. I have no idea how long we all stood immobile.
Then I remember the most inhumane sound I’ve ever heard. You know when an animal is in pain and they make that low howl? It was like that moan but quieter, deeper, and almost in slow-motion. Coming from the man hit by the car.
That sound woke everybody up.
All of a sudden people jumped from the other side of the street, and I jumped to move toward him too. My dad held me back. I watched as some man went to check on the man and (I assume) call an ambulance. Sprawled out and limp. Still facing us. Still making small sounds.
There was blood everywhere, but I mostly remember the blood on his face. He clearly had a head wound which is the worst for blood loss.
The man on the phone was joined by a woman who crouched down next to him, speaking (German, I assume) in a soothing voice, repeating her words. Probably something along the lines of, “it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay.”
More gurgling sounds.
At that point my father pulled me away saying we needed to go. Probably a good idea. Maybe he didn’t want to watch the man suffer any more. Maybe he didn’t want to wait for the ambulance to take the man away like we all knew would happen. Maybe he didn’t want us to get involved as foreigners or questioned by the police in a different country. Or maybe it was just time to go.
I have no idea what happened to the man in Vienna.
I don’t remember if my father and I talked about it later that day. I don’t even remember what else we did the rest of our time in Vienna. We left the next day for Salzburg.
And we’ve never talked about it since.
I don’t often replay this event in my mind; I generally suppress all bad memories.
When I do think about this event, I always seem to focus on his hopping across the street. So spry for an older gentleman. I wonder why exactly he had that extra pep in his step. Where was he going? Who was he going to see? How long did that person wait for him?
I tried to look up more details about the accident for this post. The most I could find in a Vienna newspaper was the number of pedestrian fatalities in Austria annually. I couldn’t find names or details. I don’t know if the man lived or died. Based on my last mental image of him, I’m skeptical of his survival.
On the other hand, my memories could be completely skewed. I’m sure that for each of the 10? 20? witnesses there are 10/20 different accounts of the event. I’m sure my father’s recollection of the day is even different than mine. I guess I’ll never know the end result.
I suppose you’re wondering why I posted this and how it fits in with the rest of my blog. The answer to both is I don’t know. I challenged myself this year to be a bit more personal on the blog and put myself out there more.
If sharing this memory isn’t personal, I don’t know what is.
Writing this post makes me respect those who share the most painful moments of their lives and put it out there for the world to see. Especially someone like Laurie who wrote about her family tragedy in a way that had tears streaming down my face and soaking my shirt. Mad respect for those who write about their crazy families, the aftermath of divorce, mental illness, relation-shits, infertility, etc.
I don’t know how I can end this post on a high note, except to say: We only get a short period on this earth so make sure it’s spent doing what you love with who you love. Cherish your family, friends, c0-workers, pets, or whoever it is that you care for most. You just never know…
Have you ever witnessed something you wish you didn’t?
Who is your favorite writer/blogger that gets REAL with you?
Have you gone out on a limb and talked or written about your memories or biggest moments?