I was up early this morning to work out a situation with a large group staying at the residence hall. We found a place to store their luggage for the day and then they were off to start their London Vacation. Then, since I was up, I stayed downstairs with Assaf for a cup of tea. We were chatting about nothing and then looked out the front doors.
Across the street was an ambulance and a police car. The EMTs weren’t moving too quickly, but we knew it was for the homeless guy who lives on the sidewalk on the next block. I have written about him before. He is a squatter who secured this area of the sidewalk six years ago and has lived there ever-since. He holds court and hosts visitors. Neighbors drop off cups of coffee and bits of food to take care of him.
Assaf mentions that the guy has it really rough. That on top of being homeless, he has been beaten up severly before. Once, in the middle of the night, a man came with a baseball bat and beat the crap out of him. We were watching the EMTs and Police, but couldn’t see very much. Eventually, they lowered the ramp on the back of the ambulance and brought out a stretcher. I noticed the EMT take the sheets off the stretcher, but thought little of it. I was fascinated by how different a British Ambulance works. The back door doubles as a hydraulic lift to raise and lower the stretcher and patient.
Then the stretcher is wheeled around and instead of the man, covered with a sheet, being given CPR or an IV drip–there is a zipped up body bag.
Now, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a body bag before, but this was a black heavy bag with the body of our neighborhood squatter in it. Then a police van pulled up, with even more cops in it. These were the armed cops, not regular patrol bobbies–these had guns. They parked in front of our door and ended our ambulance watching.
A few hours later, I’m just back from Starbucks. I passed his space on the way and it is already completely cleaned up. No cot, no trash, no evidence that someone’s life was lived there, and none that it ended there. I can’t say I was ever brave enough to have a chat with him, although I did take over a christmas goodie bag. I didn’t talk to him, offer him an ear to give his voice further audience.
But now a few more people know that a life ended today on the King’s Road, Chelsea.