I never did find out what happened to the couple involved in the motorcycle accident the evening of the vigil downtown just after the El Paso shooting. I went to pay my respects to gunshot victims that were represented by 284 pairs of shoes laid on the west lawn behind the bandstand. The Herald-Zeitung reported there would be an interactive art exhibit and guests were asked to bring flowers to contribute. I brought a handful of sunflowers from my garden.
As I walked down Seguin street toward the plaza my heart sank when the shoes came into focus. Large boots, high-heels and tiny ballerina slippers were all painted equally in black. As I placed my flowers, I saw that each pair was labeled not with names but with the geographic location of 284 U.S. mass shootings since 1/1/19.
I chose to grieve alone on the backside of the bandstand. The reverend just finished a prayer when I heard a sickening crunch followed by screams. I turned to see a motorcycle sliding horizontally across the round-about and two people strewn into traffic. I dropped my purse and ran toward them through the shoes in that out-of-body way that seemed like lightning-fast slow-motion. I knew whatever I was about to see I would never be able to unsee. Ironically it wasn’t the first time I’d had to make that decision; my husband was killed in a motorcycle accident some years ago.
Mercifully, someone ran faster than me to render aid while I instead turned sharply to block traffic. Somebody came and put an orange vest on me. I heard the injured man calling out to his lady rider but she didn’t answer. I think she might’ve been in shock. I didn’t turn to look. For the second time in my life I chose not to see what I could never unsee. I could hear the Samaritans rendering aid telling them to be still as the sirens got closer. I diverted traffic until NBPD arrived and took over.
I numbly walked back through the feet-less shoes in the dark to find my purse and then to my car and locked myself inside and sobbed. I wept for humanity knowing that in spite of it all we’re exactly the same. We are all flesh and blood; heart and soul. That’s it. I hope that couple is ok. I think of them often. And those damned shoes.