Three days a week, I take BART to work. Including yesterday, Thursday, which turned out to be the day of the Oscar Grant verdict.
I hadn't been expecting the verdict yesterday; I figured it would be later, maybe even the following week. I had just one thing on my mind as I approached my station in Berkeley: catching my train. I was late, so I was rushing.
Last week, I started hearing about the supposed dangers BART passengers might face, once the verdict was announced. The media painted lurid pictures of rioting mobs, who would be held in check only by massive police presence, along with the moderating voices of community leaders.
"Don't take any train that passes through the Fruitvale Station," several people said.
But I didn't have much choice, since I take the Richmond-Fremont line. And I thought the dangers to passengers, at least during regular commuting hours, were probably overstated. (Besides, as we know, middle-aged white women are in much less danger than young black men--on BART, or anywhere else.)
Well, I was a victim yesterday. A victim of my own clumsiness.
As I was rushing to catch my train in Berkeley, I tripped. I felt myself pitching forward, in a slow-motion descent, weighted down by my heavy backpack. I braced my fall, but I still fell hard. On the ground, face forward, I remained frozen. Embarrassed, trying to assess the damages to my knees and palms. And to my skirt, which turned out to have a hole in it.
A rescuer appeared at my side. "Are you all right? " He sounded concerned.
I looked up, muttering assurances that I was fine.
"Let me help you up."
The man was courtly. He extended his hand. He was middle-aged, black, wearing some kind of costume, it seemed. It looked like ayellow cape outfit. Maybe he was a street performer. Or maybe I was just delerious.
I took the extended hand, gratefully.
I thanked my rescuer and then continued to the station. I had just missed my train.
I sat down to wait for the next train, my right knee and palm scraped and oozing. I began to search for tissues in my purse, or maybe my backpack. No luck.
A man waited next to me on the bench, watching in silence. He seemed to hesitate, then he offered me a little pack of kleenex. He was a young white guy, with the look of a student. He seemed nervous.
"Thanks," I said. I explained that I'd taken a spill, rushing to the train.
"I know, " he said. "I saw."
I wondered whether he'd avoided getting involved, or whether my rescuer had just beaten him to it.
I thanked him, then dabbed at the ooze. Kids take falls like this all the time, skinning knees and elbows. But it gets harder to rebound, the older you get. I ached for the rest of the day.
I got to work, only to discover I'd been confused about my schedule. No 9 AM appointment after all. So I went and bought some bandaids. All I could find were crazy day-glo colors, chartreuse for my knee and purple on my right palm. Now I really felt like a careless toddler who had taken a spill.
At the end of the day, just before heading home, I learned about the verdict. My first reaction? Relief that it wasn't worse. (I am cynical enough that I expected an acquittal.) Then I heard all the dire predictions. Oh well, it was too late for me to join the panicked crowds who had exited work early.
But my BART ride was uneventful. Maybe less crowded than usual. The Fruitvale Station was calm, when I passed through at about 6 PM. (I saw just one protester: A woman in her mid-sixties, white, carrying a sign, who got off at my station.)
Only one person approached me on BART. A pan handler. Polite.
"Do you have a quarter to spare?" he asked.
Normally, I avoid giving money in this way.
But I gave him a dollar, thinking of the two men who had come to the aid of a stranger, earlier in the day.
The next day, I still ached: in my knees, my wrist, my shoulder. And in my heart.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders