Sunday, February 19, 2012

Body down ...

There was a dead body on Julian Street in the North Mission this morning. Police blocked off the street and clustered round.

Passersby, including those of us on the way to the church on the corner, took in the reality and walked on.

How to react to the death of someone you know nothing about on those rare occasions when confronted with the visual evidence that someone has died? There doesn't seem to be any culturally approved ritual or reaction to fall back on. We did pray for the person, whoever he/she was, in our service.

I once happened to see someone jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. That too felt meaningless. Where do you put the sight of someone outside your ken leaping to his death?

A van marked "Medical Examiner" drove up. Apparently it wasn't an open and shut case (are there such things?) as the police were still clustered about several hours later when we emerged from church.

cops cluster round.jpg

UPDATE: It turns out this person died by violence, a stabbing and robbery, according to Mission Loc@l. A friend of ours did call in the police when he came on the scene in the early morning. Neighbors apparently are agonizing that they heard cries and did nothing.

Some years ago, I wrote a post that deals with social science research on what happens when we fail to respond: apparently we are following social cues that counteract our instinct to intervene because we (wrongly) conclude that everything must be alright. The social scientists even suggest what to do if we need help -- be specific, yell "call the police now!" not "help". Well, maybe.

1 comment:

paula said...

All unattended deaths have to be investigated, to rule out homicide. Even if it was a natural death, it's still a shock to anyone walking by. Even in the middle of a big city, people still die alone.

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