A heartwarming addendum to a horribly tragic story. Newsday‘s May 24 coverage of the funeral notes that the late Amber Sadiq was the product of mixed Pakistani-Dominican (and Muslim-Catholic) marriage. Repudiating New York’s usual tabloid-enflamed culture of law-enforcement-as-personal-vengeance, Amber’s father is calling for clemency for the little boy who (unintentionally, we presume) killed his daughter. From AP, May 24:
NEW YORK – The father of a second-grade girl killed when an empty school bus rolled forward and crushed her is asking for mercy for the eight-year-old boy accused of setting the vehicle in motion.
Authorities say the boy, identified by the city’s lawyers as Tafiri J., released the parking brake of the bus, causing it to roll and crush Amber Sadiq on Monday afternoon in Brooklyn. A judge has ordered a mental health evaluation for the boy.
Amber’s father, Imran Sadiq, says through a spokesman that Tafiri “is a baby himself” and that the question is why the vehicle wasn’t more secure.
Amber was walking home from school with her ten-year-old brother when she was struck by the bus in Crown Heights. The driver had parked and secured the vehicle before going on his lunch break.
No fossil fuels were actually being burned when the runaway bus crushed Amber, but the real killer here is a totally out-of-wack transportation system completely unsuited to a dense, pedestrian-heavy city like New York.
Also in the news at the moment is this story, which is considerably less heartwarming. From the New York Times, May 24:
Cyclist Hurt During Subway Strike Heads Home
After more than 15 operations and five months in the hospital, Matthew Long, the firefighter who was hit by a bus during the transit workers’ strike, is going home today — but with mixed emotions about his homecoming and dismay about the walkout that he said caused the accident.
Mr. Long, 39, was critically injured while riding his bicycle to work on Dec. 22 when a charter bus driver bringing workers into the city turned from Third Avenue onto 52nd Street and hit him, dragging him under it.
He remembers seeing the firefighters who came to rescue him and shouting to them that he was one of them and urging them to get him out from under the bus. He does not remember anything else. By the time rescue workers got Mr. Long to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital, he had lost so much blood that few thought he would live.
The first two operations were to stop the bleeding and to clean out his wounds to prevent infection, said Dr. Dean G. Lorich, an orthopedic surgeon who was among the team of doctors who performed the emergency surgery. Orthopedic surgeons did not try to repair the broken bones in his right arm, shoulder, pelvis, both legs and a foot until he had survived for a few days.
Mr. Long has sued the bus owner, the bus driver, the company that hired the bus, and the transport workers union. He contends that the accident would not have happened if the transportation workers had not gone on strike, and struggles to define his emotions about the strikers.
“I don’t know if anger is the right emotion,” Mr. Long said yesterday. “I think the president of the transit union made a huge mistake. What would the city be like if firemen — we’re city workers too — if firemen went on strike?”
Mr. Long said that if Roger Toussaint, the president of the striking union, had continued negotiating with the city instead of walking out, “this bus driver from way upstate wouldn’t have been in the city that day and I wouldn’t have been hit.” The driver, who lives in Albany, was charged with making an illegal right turn from an improper lane.
Union officials did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Before the accident, Mr. Long ran in marathons and competed in triathlons. His last assignment with the Fire Department was as a physical fitness trainer at the department’s academy. Now, he said, “Half my day, I’m in a wheelchair. I’ve been here five months and the obstacles I have ahead of me are unknown.”
His homecoming, he said, will be bittersweet. He is happy to leave the hospital and work on getting healthier, but he said leaving is “a little nerve-racking.”
“I’ve been in the hospital a long time,” he said. “There’s been constant care, people always around to take care of me and now I’ll be home on my own.”
Eddie Long, the youngest of Mr. Long’s six brothers, who is also a firefighter, will live with him in his apartment and his family will check on him, as will the firefighters he used to work with at Ladder 49, in East Harlem.
“I have a huge support group, which is phenomenal,” he said. “I had hoped to use it in a different way, but this is the deal.”
He credits his family and friends for keeping him motivated during his recovery.
“There were plenty of times when I didn’t want to keep going. I just wanted to stop,” he said. “I had enough pain and enough surgeries. But they wouldn’t let that happen. They kept pushing me, and that’s good.”
He said that it has taken him a long time to be able to acknowledge the progress he has made. When he first started walking with crutches, his physical therapists would determine how far he could go in six minutes. The first week, he was able to walk 200 feet and the second week he got up to 300 feet. Mr. Long, who was used to running a mile in six minutes, was baffled that his trainers were so excited.
“I thought: ‘Where’s the motivation here? I get to walk 200 feet?’ ” he said. “I didn’t get it.”
Mr. Long and his doctors will not be able to completely gauge his recovery for two more years. Still, he says he thinks every day about going back to his job as a firefighter. “I never stop thinking about it,” he said.
Suing the TWU is way out of line. First of all, it shows little solidarity between firefighters and transit workers, and the former have their own greivances against the city (having been screwed again and again even as they were officially lionized for their heroism on 9-11 and its aftermath). More to the point, including the transit union in the suit implicitly deflects (at least some) blame from the reckless driver and the system that breeds and protects his kind. It also portrays bicycling as an onerous imposition. The danger to cyclists and pedestrians on the city streets is fundamentally a function of petro-oligarchical rule that imposes upon us (under the carefully cultivated illusion of “choice”) the hegemony of the automobile. The way out of this dilemma includes both a safe and dignified place for bicyclists on the city’s streets and respectful wages and human dignity for the transit workers below them.
Ironically, an April 26 story from The Chief, New York’s civil service weekly, on the TWU website, notes that the Uniformed Fire Officers’ Association and even the police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, are supporting the TWU position. Good for them.
See more reasons WHY WE FIGHT.