The blood on my hand

July 26, 2016: There is now a follow-up post.

I’m writing this to help me work out what happened. I’ve repeated it often enough to various police officers, but I need work through this.

Last night didn’t go as I expected at all. I got home from work just shy of eleven after a nice walk home in the light rain, chatted with Tracey about our day for a bit, tucked her in, then was editing until about 1:30 on a client project, when I decided to close my eyes for a few minutes on the couch to think… and promptly fell asleep.

I’m a sound sleeper. There was some noise outside – enough to set Sprocket off, even with the fan running in the window, which brought me to semi-consciousness. I heard three pops – which I hazily discounted to leftover fireworks, then maybe the sound of cars driving away. Strange thing to do; set off fireworks and then drive away quickly. Like I said, I was asleep, and when I’m asleep, I tend to want to stay asleep.

That said, a few seconds later, Tracey woke me up and told me someone was in the street, and headed out the door. I grabbed my phone, looked outside, dialled 911, dug out my head phones and followed.

I asked the dispatcher for an ambulance and police, as I thought the person had been shot.

When I got downstairs, I know Tracey said something to me, but I don’t remember what it was as I was answering the 911 dispatcher’s questions. I was transferred to someone who was asking questions as I was trying assess ABC (airway, breathing, circulation). It’s surprisingly hard to remember training when someone else is talking in your ear.

The kid had no measurable pulse that I could find on his wrist or carotid artery. I couldn’t feel breath or see movement. He didn’t respond to anything I did.

About this time, a car quickly turned onto our street, and accelerated hard towards us. For the first time, I was scared. I think I yelled at Tracey to get inside, and I tried to decide if I’d have time to jump behind a nearby car or not.

Fortunately, it was an unmarked police car instead of the shooters returning.

The officer was at my side in seconds, performed the the sternal rub (which I forgot) and we examined kid, found an entry wound, the rolled him over to check for there was an exit wound.

I started CPR, counting off every twenty compressions for the dispatcher so he’d know my progress.

While performing compressions, I remember looking at the wound, marvelling at how very small it was. His eyes, mouth, the way the light from a near by streetlight was falling on his skin. He’s just a kid with cool hair.

I got to a bit over one hundred before the ambulance seemingly appeared out of no where and a police officer relieved me as the paramedics set up. A defibrillator that I didn’t recognize was placed on him (not that I have any specific experience with them – it just doesn’t look like any of the ones I’ve ever seen). By this time, I was asked to move back to the building.

The initial interviews started. What did we see, what did we hear, the order of events, repeated often to different officers.

We were asked to fill out witness statements and that we could go upstairs to do them. Tracey went to her desk and I to mine.

My hand writing is terrible. Always has been, and it shows no promise of getting any better.

I can’t remember his face. I looked into his eyes and I can’t remember his face.

I filled out the witness statement as well as I could.

While I was writing, I noticed that there was a bit of blood on my hand. Could have been his, more likely mine from the rocks that were on the sidewalk while I was on my hands and knees beside him. I put my pen down, walked to the kitchen and washed my hands.

Fucking people with their fucking guns.

Just a couple of days ago, I was discussing my distaste for violence with a friend. It should always be the very last resort, as resorting to violence is the failure of our ability to communicate our differences. Churchill said it differently – “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war”.

We finished filling out the statements, brought them downstairs and answered additional questions. I explained what FlatBook was a bunch of times (it’s like Uber, but for apartments).

Guilt.

Cognitively, I understood (and still do) I was at his side as fast as was possible and that getting there any quicker would have made no appreciable difference. Emotionally, however is a different minefield. Could I? What if? How about if? Maybe? If I had?

No.

There was nothing we could have done that would have changed the outcome.

I just wanted to help save him. We both did.

We spent the rest of the morning in a fair state of shock, but the police we dealt with were friendly and kind. We chatted with neighbours, and once we were cleared to leave, we sought out the familiar; Brunch. Bacon. Friends. I did my Final Cut Pro X talk at ByMUG then came home, answered some email, then had a nap.

It’s been over 26 hours since this started. I now know his name; Tarique Leger. Just a kid – the same age I was when I moved to Ottawa. Someone has lost a son. Others have lost a friend.

I’ve seen a bit of speculation online that this was drug-related – I have no idea and honestly, it doesn’t matter.

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t worth his life.

I think of the blood on my hand and realize that it doesn’t matter at all whose it was.

To my friends; I’m not yet ready to talk about it with anyone except Tracey and the police, as we were all there. When I’m ready, I’ll let you know.

To reporters: No, you may not quote this. It’s not for you. Please respect that.

There is now a follow-up post.

10 thoughts on “The blood on my hand

  1. A few years ago, I was camping over the Labour Day weekend at a beloved campground, when a terrible storm hit, and in the early morning the tent right next to us was struck by lightening. I remember the torrential downpour, dialing 911 on my cell in the rain, not fumbling like always happens when you dial in a dream. I remember doing CPR, his cold wet skin, him reviving!!! He revived!!! And slipped away again. The ambulance took forever. (About 20 minutes or maybe less.) I found out afterwards that they lost him 3 times in the ambulance and got him back, only for him to slip away finally at the hospital. I’m told I bought him time until the experts could do their best. I found out afterwards that he had a name, that he was the husband of a daughter of the campground owner, that there had been a baby in the tent with them who was his tiny son.

    It’s not even close to the despair and terror of gun violence. But I’m telling you the story because what you and I experienced is different from what anyone else in these situations experienced. The family mourn their loved one. The friends gather with loss and grief in their hearts. But you and I – we go over every moment, every compression, every reflection of light and ground under knees, the glimpse of clothing or skin. It’s not a memory that I can let go of, ever. My emotional fallout has not faded over the years. But it’s not something I can talk about with his friends or family, I don’t belong with their grief, my experience as first responder was unique to me and my grief is not the same as theirs. No one can carry it for me, or talk or support or relieve me of the burden of the experience. I have panic attacks when the rain gets too heavy when I’m camping, or when the thunder is too directly over my head.

    I just told this story because I wanted you know to know someone gets it, how you are shaken, how you are feeling, how no one can really talk to you and understand. How you are shaken to the core.

    *sending love*

  2. Holy shit.

    Holy shit.

    I’m so sorry, both for the loss and all it’s putting you both through. Let me know when you’re ready for a drink, and I’ll come ’round with a few.

  3. This horrifies me on many levels: violence of this magnitude invading of your lovely quiet street; Guns! I HATE guns! GUNS KILL! So I totally understand your feelings; You and Tracey being exposed to this horror; a young man shot!; somebody’s child killed!; the grief of his family and friends; the grief of a community of homes that will never be the same and the fear this entire incident has created. My brain keeps thinking “this cannot have happened to my dear friends. Please make this not be happening to my friends.” I am so very sorry this horror came into your gentle lives :'(

  4. You’re a very good man to step up and help. Apathy plagues too many bystanders who’d rather take a snap with their smart phones and walk away, thinking, “not my problem.” “The authorities will deal with it.”

    Or, “I’m busy. I can’t get involved…”

    My thoughts to you and Tracey. The trauma which you now have to address demonstrates your humanity is intact.

  5. Tom & Tracey

    I encourage you both to seek post-trauma support. Things may seem OK for awhile but PTSD is no fun and may surface in the days, weeks or months to follow. Been there, done that. I would never wish that on anyone. Take care both of you.

  6. Tom: it is good you were willing to do the right thing, to do all you could to save this young man’s life. I am so sorry it turned out so tragically. I am thinking of you both, and grateful there are so many people in this world who are willing to do good.
    Big hugs, Erin

  7. Had it been me on the ground, I could not have thought of anyone better to have by my side than you. Thank you Tom.

  8. Haunting. Simply haunting. Thank you for sharing this link with me on Reddit. The media, well, they forget that there is someone who finds people like this in their darkest and dying hour. The media also doesn’t like to talk about the heroism attempted to save a life nor do they want to talk about the indelible mark it leaves on a person for the rest of their own lives.

    Somewhere out there parents lost a son, friends lost a comrade, kin and kith lost someone close and no doubt each would, if they knew you existed in that young man’s last moments, thank you for trying your absolute best to try and bring him back from the brink. I know I do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *