For one nine-year-old named Cooper Stock, who lived just blocks from us, life ended steps from his own front stoop this past weekend. Crossing the street with his father Friday evening, Cooper was run over by a taxi and killed.
Hearing this unspeakable news shook me. An acquaintance lives on that corner and heard the father's loud, terrible screams. Three blocks away, I didn't hear the father's screams myself. But I could feel his pain nonetheless. I can't imagine. And yet I do. Yes, there are tragedies that take place every day, in places far and near. But this is our home.
Crossing the street with children is one of those things that city parents learn to manage from day one. Even pushing a stroller makes the experience different: you can't poke your head out into the street to see if a car is coming when your stroller is out in front of you. As with many aspects of going places with a baby, you relax your timetable and learn to be more patient. You also learn to be defensive when necessary: you stare down the aggressive taxi driver who is inching out into the crosswalk. You teach your children, as soon as they can walk, the meaning of the "walking man" and the "stop hand". You tell them they must hold your hand in the street. Then, you teach them how to cross themselves: watch the lights and the traffic, don't run, be aware.
I have to say that I felt a sick relief when I learned that Cooper Stock was crossing with his dad. That's because had he been alone, there would be some who would automatically blame the child, and assume that it was his inexperience that allowed the terrible accident to occur. And then, by extension, there would be a clamp-down effect, where parents would be discouraged from trusting their kids to cross the street. I still believe that many 9-year-olds, including my own, are capable of crossing the street on their own. If anything, this accident reminds us that we can't protect our children from the roll of the dice that is life.
No one should have to worry about dying from crossing the street. Saying that makes it sounds like I'm angry at someone--that there is some systemic failing at fault. But, while I support recent efforts to slow down traffic in this city to protect pedestrians, it's unclear whether such efforts would have saved this boy. The taxi driver, no doubt, was negligent. He wasn't looking; he didn't see them. Perhaps he was in a rush, thinking of something else. He did not flee the scene; reports say he was in shock.
How terrible. Life is fragile. Life can end as oddly and unexpectedly as it sometimes begins.
Today I'm crying for Cooper, a local third grader whom I didn't know, and hoping his family can come to terms, one day, with their loss.