The death that saved my life

by Carmen Borrison

Three weeks ago, I watched someone die. Someone I didn’t know, and someone I will never know.

Stationed at the airport, completely wrapped up in my own little world while scrolling through my phone, I looked up to discover that everyone else around me was doing the same thing. When I people watch at the airport, I always wonder what these people’s stories are. I wonder where they come from and where they are headed – if they’re flying home for business, to see a friend, or for a family vacation. I wonder how they will be greeted when they get off the plane at their destination.

I had arrived at the airport about an hour early that day. Sitting at my gate with my nose pressed intently to my phone, I saw a man collapse to the ground out of the corner of my eye. The man, who had been quietly making his way to his gate not 5 seconds before, was now shaking uncontrollably on the ground directly in front of me.

Immediately people rushed over to him; a man who had been walking along side him, a woman seated a few seats down from me, a security guard standing nearby, even a business man in a suit who flung his cell phone to the ground mid conversation to sprint to the man’s aid. A woman stood up and screamed, “He’s turning blue! He’s turning blue!” Another said, “Flip him on his side!” Another, “Support his head!” Another, “CALL THE PARAMEDICS!” There was the sound of jumbled voices all wanting to be heard and all wanting to help, but not one knowing exactly what to do.

It was not until about 5 minutes into the catastrophe that I came to my senses and removed my hand that had been clasped to my face. I sat there silently, shocked, not knowing what to feel, thinking of ways that I could help but not acting on any of them. I sat there, watching the man’s face just a few yards in front of me turn from blue to a deep shade of purple, still shaking compulsively.

A few more minutes went by before the paramedics came. They started their routine: CPR, checked his wallet for identification, set up the stretcher, checked his pulse. My eyes were fixed on the scene the whole time. A few more minutes went by. I noticed the man wasn’t shaking anymore.

A woman who had just arrived at the gate came up to me and asked what had happened. I rapidly started to explain to her what I had just witnessed, but probably having sensed the panic in my voice she cut me off and said, “Honey, are you okay?” With just a simple question I broke down in tears, overwhelmed with emotion that had been numbed by shock up until that point. This woman, a complete stranger to me, reached out to hug me and said, “It’s okay. Make sure you get some water on the plane. Go call your mom. It will be alright.”

Just then, there was an announcement on the loud speaker that we needed to line up to board the plane. I told the woman thank you, and made my way over. As I gave my ticket to the guard at my gate, I glanced back at the man on the ground. He had a thin blue sheet draped over his face and body, and security guards were surrounding him, setting up barricades to shield him from view.

I took my seat on my flight, still very distraught over what I had just watched from start to finish. I thought about the man, someone I never knew, and thought about his life. I wondered why he had been at the airport alone that day- if there was anyone he was flying to go see. I wondered what his life was like and if he had any kids or any family at all, and I wondered who the paramedics or the police department would call first to deliver the news. I could not stop thinking about how unfair life can be. That one moment we can be strolling along and the next, we can drop dead to the floor, surrounded by hundreds of people who don’t know us, or our story.

This terrible event caused me to see the goodness of people. And it now comforts me to know that in the instance of terrible events, people will band together to help, even if they do not know how. Whether they are scared to stand up and voice their opinion among a crowd, or scared that they will fail in their attempts, humans are genetically conditioned to want to help one another. When life seems most unfair I encourage you to step back and embrace the little moments of good, and to not allow yourself to be angered by the injustices of life. There is so much bad in this life, but when humanity seems to be at its lowest, the true goodness of people will show.

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