I saw the aftermath of this horrible accident and was pretty damaged by it.
The response to it by some members of our community has been further damaging.
The witch hunt is on. People want the driver of the truck charged, not realizing or caring how little tangible good that will do. Not realizing how much very real damage it will inflict on someone who is undoubtedly already distraught beyond words. They want to make him an example so that others will view his situation and not make the same mistake he presumably did and cost more lives. This is after the police, who have a greater understanding of both the situation and the laws that apply to it have declined to charge him. And ultimately it is up to them to make and live with that very hard decision.
People need blame though. There always has to be fault. Someone has to always suffer. You can read through 375 comments in the story above and so many of them are about blame. The cyclist. The truck driver. Eventually of course, they start blaming each other, their philosophies and “people like” them. Many times they see themselves as perpetually victimized.
They blame “the city” whether that means politicians or planners or civic engineers, I don’t know. But before this accident people had as much of an opportunity to get involved as they are now, but didn’t. They are stirred to action by a tragedy and that’s understandable. But consider that just a few actions before this event could have helped also. Maybe some postings on a page or message board or even a conversation about the dangers of cycling on St. Claude, a state highway packed with commercial traffic from industries in St. Bernard and Plaquemines. It’s not safe. It won’t be made such. It’s a truck route. Believe it or not, we need trucks for our locally produced organic fruits and vegetables and all sorts of other items. We have to coexist with them. They can have state roads and we can stick to neighborhoods.
And “the city”? It’s ALL OF US. Citizens are part of the government. So really, if blame is to be assigned here, why did cycling activists fail to spur the types of change to prevent this types of accident? I don’t really blame activists. But see how easy it is to assign blame?
With no compassion, people callously photographed, posted and shared grotesque images of this man’s horribly disfigured corpse laying on the hot asphalt of Elysian Fields with the arrogant reasoning being “people need to see what can happen” as if the rest of us who may be sensitive to such images can’t possibly conjure the emotions without being subjected to such an assault. We are sensitive to those images because we CAN conjure them, quickly and intensely. Many of us have experienced them. Or they said “this is the only way things are going to change” as if the news accounts or descriptions of what happened wouldn’t suffice, as if there were no alternative to achieving this outcome without taking this very drastic step.
I can only assume that people were very emotional and acted in an emotional way by posting or sharing the pictures. That’s understandable. But it says a lot about the sensitivities someone lacks when they think, without consideration, that a visual battery like the images of that man’s very vulnerable vessel in the street are required to spur someone’s feelings. The damage done to everyone who viewed it is very tangible and palpable and the good they are hoping to get out of it is abstract and diffuse and can’t be proven. But the what I felt seeing it all again can be proven because I am here saying it. The sensibilities of myself and anyone who may have been damaged by the photos weren’t considered and this was stated bluntly. It was stated. Anyone who objected to them were bullied.
And Geric Geck? The victim? He had no say in it. Wasn’t given a chance. Decisions about how he would be portrayed in the very intimate moments after his death were made for him. For many people that is all they will ever know of him despite that he was an artist and a friend and an animal lover. I can say if something ever happens to me or someone I love, I would beg my fellow humans to give us our privacy.
It struck me more as gory, grotesque fetishism. There was an arrogance behind it that whoever posted it assumed they knew better what we needed to see than we did. It was unwelcome. Seeing the aftermath of the accident I can say I have never seen something so awful in my life. I had not even had a chance to just decompress or cherish the people in my life and begin to recover from it before the images began showing up in my Facebook feed. Stirring it up again.
To Sherry and Rex and Louis, the people I contacted on Facebook about taking them down, thank you for doing that. I wish more were capable of your understanding that even if it spurs folks to action, that’s not the only way to do so. It certainly was an easy way though.
I read accounts in the news of people taking photos of the dying Bourbon Street shooting victim a few weeks back, interfering with efforts to save her life. And a few years ago, there were photos of entertainer Messy Mya taken moments after he was shot posted on the Internet almost instantly. It’s never ok, for any reason.
Perhaps if in the moments after this accident someone could have simply thought to take their shirt off and enact one of our civilization’s oldest death rituals and cover this man and save him and his loved ones from the very public display of what really should have been intimate.
I ride a bike quite often in New Orleans. I ride for work, for play. I ride Uptown, West Bank, the Quarter, the Marigny, Bywater. Everywhere. I put it on a boat sometimes. I am also somewhat involved. Not as much as I should be. I could do more. We all could. I have been to marches like this and protests like this and this. I organize a conference for the future of New Orleans and have for several years. I’m involved somewhat. I should do more. That’s my failing. So, I should be exactly the type of person who should be spurred to movement by this cycling death.
Unfortunately, I will have to do so on my own because I have no wish or want to be involved with any cycling organization that feels it has to post pictures of mutilated people to promote its message. It is EXACTLY THE SAME tactic as abortion protesters who post mangled fetuses. The causes are different. But the tactic is identical.
So in people’s rush to force people to get involved through their posting of graphic imagery, perhaps they need to consider how many supporters they are losing by doing so. But maybe they will be too wrapped up in their outrage porn to realize it.
I also am forced to think about the first responders to this accident, what they saw, and what they must see every day in a routine manner. This was an isolated event that I happened to regrettably see. To them, it is an everyday part of their lives. And they aren’t allowed to process it properly because they have jobs to do. It’s their job to sort it out for the rest of us and not for themselves in their hearts and souls. But I am sure, the images and the sorrow and the experiences they go through doesn’t just vanish. They endure it. For something of a paycheck but also for duty and to try and help. And they are so often criticized and not enough thanked for it. Particularly police.
The bonafide good that someone can do is contribute to this man’s funeral fund…
What would also do a some good is a little understanding that even tiny errors have huge consequences. But it was still an error. Whether it was an error of the cyclist or the trucker or, the most probable scenario, a little fault of both. It was an error. Similar to forgetting your keys at home or spilling coffee. One life is over. There is no need to ruin another one. Results can be achieved other ways. Human’s don’t always have to suffer.
The Universe is sometimes cruel and we have to have accept the the things we cannot change. In this incident, we cannot reverse this man’s very tragic, very sad death.
The courage to change the things we can is showing one of humanity’s essential virtues, compassion, to one of the people most affected by it, this working man from Violet.