Monday, November 28, 2005

Not a night for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving should be time to acknowledge all that we have when we come together with family and friends. But last Thursday wasn't that kind of day for everyone who met for the first time in my neighborhood.

I was in Delaware laughing and enjoying the evening with old friends and making typical stupid complaints about eating too much. I didn't hear the screech of tires nor the sickening crunch of glass and plastic cracking, metal crumpling.

I didn't see the rescue team come rushing down my street, fire engines' red lights flashing. I didn't hear the sirens or the beat-beat-beating of the medical evacuation helicopter. I didn't know any of it.

Far away on Friday, the morning after, I finally read the e-mail that had started coming my way the night before:

LYNNE: What happened on the street tonight? Was there a horrible accident!!!

MARIA: E. 9th Street & Third Street crash, 11/24/05, 8:30 pm, Police, Fire Squad, Paramedics were here in a matter of minutes, Bill has more info, all I have is pictures. Helicopter was here to take 3 victims away - drunk driving caused accident, really bad. Bill was there to assist and Joyce called for help.

BILL: By now you know of the accident on Ninth, but you wouldn't know of it from the Courier! Maria has pictures. The Plaintalker should do a piece on it, and our emergency services did a fine job, including the Medevac unit, which the CN loves to bash.

Two nights later I am home looking at the photos. I see the van with the front end torn up, lying on its side like a smashed bug.

I see the car with three-quarters of its side ripped off...a door yards away and crumpled like a piece of tinfoil.

Police tape crosses the car's hood...the windshield crackled into a million 'safely' rounded pieces...front tire wrenched into an impossible angle for driving...seats twisted and collapsed.

Strangers met each other just down the block from my house on Thanksgiving evening.

It was the terrible collision that my neighbors and I have feared. By chance we live in one of Plainfield's rare "walking" neighborhoods and we've been worrying about the speeding and the blind curve at East Ninth Street and Third Place. Children walk here.

We have been complaining about this intersection to city authorities, formally and informally, for many months. We go to meetings in City Hall. We bring charts and maps.

"What can be done?" we ask.

We make suggestions: What about rumble strips? What about a speed bump? What about 4-way stop signs?

All bets are off, of course, if we're faced with a drunk driver. Still, every idea we bring up is rejected for one reason or another with a casual shrug of a shoulder. We've been told more than once, "It's an enforcement issue."


But that's where the conversation always seems to end--with a shrug. It's a "can't do" kind of message that says there are more important policing issues in Plainfield. My neighbors and I say: not everywhere, not all of the time.

When it comes to crisis response Plainfield seems to have it down pretty well. But paying attention to the details day-to-day can make all residents across the city feel more secure. We're not asking for a 24-hour traffic cop, but couldn't we approach these obvious dangers, the ones we can anticipate, with more of a positive attitude?

I'm willing to bet the right preventative medicine can best a good paramedic any night of the week.

--Barbara Todd Kerr

KEYWORDS: accident

My neighbors and I will be back at the Parking and Traffic Committee meeting on Wednesday morning. In fact, East Ninth Street is already on the agenda for November 30th, 10am-11:30am, City Hall Library.

My thanks to Maria Pellum for the photos.

FINAL NOTE: For those who relish remaking into a 'partisan' issue everything done or said in Plainfield, please find something better to do. I am not interested in pointing a political finger at anyone. The culprit is disinterest--that's what rules no matter who actually sits in City Hall. BTK