Our plans for the day didn’t include a close encounter with a just-killed body but not all things can be planned and not all plans go as expected.
Last Monday, Diane and I had the pleasure of spending the day with Suzan Haskins and traveling companion, Terresa Moore, as they worked their way northward, up Ecuador’s coast. On behalf of International Living Magazine (Suzan has been a writer/editor for them since 2001), Suzan was doing a piece on Ecuador’s Coastal Lifestyle. Diane and I were looking forward to meeting both Suzan and Terresa as they had both been Facebook friends for some time and we had been following Suzan’s writings for several years.
After snagging them at their hotel in Bahia, we headed out for the short drive across the bay for a brief visit at our place and then we would head north; lunch in Canoa with a tour of the Rio Muchacho Organic farm in the afternoon, dropping them at their Canoa hotel at the end of the day.
As we rounded the bend and began to enter the ramp for the bridge across the bay from Bahia to San Vicente, Canoa and points north…traffic became congested, slowed and briefly stopped before beginning to move slowly forward. I eventually saw some red and blue flashing lights ahead on the 2-lane bridge with a congregation of vehicles. Ahhh…an accident. A Collision. But traffic was still moving forward and it looked like any delay would be minimal.
We were driving very slowly as we approached the largest collection of people and a large fire truck mostly blocked the lane of traffic. And then, as I was searching for the wreckage normally associated with a vehicle accident, I unexpectedly drove right past a man’s body lying on the pavement, perhaps 3 feet from the side of my slowly moving vehicle. It was mostly covered by a blue sheet, but not entirely. There was blood present on the pavement near the man’s helmet-clad head.
A woman was standing over the man’s body in obvious shock and mourning; her outcries of anguish pierced deeply into my consciousness. The cries of such emotion reach into the soul and touch the humanity in all of us. It was uncomfortable. I felt as if I had intruded and had no right to be there. I didn’t understand the circumstances but I did know something of grief and mourning.
Part of me wanted to comfort her. I was instantly connected, once again, to my grief in dealing with the accidental death of my youngest son. I was also connected to this unknown woman through her grief. I remembered the pain and part of that pain washed over me again as I observed this woman.
A man had his arms around her in an attempt to comfort her; her movements were large and almost violent as she seemed to want to move closer to the body at her feet, the man holding her was in the position of both attempting to comfort and restrain her. A large crowd had gathered around the scene and other cars and motorcycles were parking along the bridge’s railing, their occupants joining the large collection of onlookers that had gathered.
Curiously, we saw no sign of a wrecked car or motorcycle leaving us to speculate that perhaps his motorcycle had gone off the edge of the bridge, somehow, leaving his body behind. Unlikely but…as we only had a moment to consider the scene, we allowed for our uneducated speculations.
The experience was surreal as our extremely close proximity to this sort of situation would not have been permitted in the states. Yellow tape, traffic cones, traffic detours and even the closing of a road would have provided insulation. Perhaps a portable frame and canvas wall in one combination or another would have been erected, shielding passersby from the visual, visceral shock of a bloody, accidental death.
To add to the surrealism of the whole thing, about 15 feet past the body lying in the roadway, stood one of my local expat friends and well-known, local persona, Henry Wonsey, Henry is a retired firefighter and local fitness guru who assists the local fire department with training and operations. Henry was there in an official capacity as evidenced by his “fireman attire”.
“Hey Don!” The warm, sincere greeting came with an equally warm smile and wave as I was still trying to deal with the visual impact of 15 feet and 5 seconds before.
“Hey Henry!” came my automated response, smallish wave and forced smile.
Since Monday, the tom-toms have been beating and it seems that the man killed on the bridge was shot. The two competing scenarios at this point are that a gang member shot him while he was riding his motorcycle …OR…a police officer stopped him on the bridge, the dead man resisted and was shot and killed by the police. Whatever was the scenario, there will be people who will grieve and mourn over their loss. I will connect with fireman Henry soon and will get the real scoop.
On the other side of the bridge, the rest of the day went as planned and we all enjoyed ourselves.
For others, last Monday was something entirely different.