It was around 6:30 at night; dark, and a busy intersection.
I had just come off the highway, waiting to turn right onto 28th Street. As I looked to the left waiting for traffic, I saw them. Two people wearing dark clothing. In an odd place-that busy intersection, on foot.
They caught my attention, because I’ve been considering a photographic exploration of the poor, homeless, or otherwise disadvantaged. As I studied them, I noticed one of them was bearded, wearing a hat. He was clearly suffering some sort of impairment. Drunk perhaps? Maybe. I’ve been there. Wobbly and disoriented. But the other one was there, holding him by the arm and guiding him across the street. I considered how or if I could photograph them? I’ve got my camera with me; but no, not the right time or place.
He lost his balance, briefly, as he crossed in front of my car. Put his hand on my hood but eventually stumbled safely to the other side of the road. I needed to get to the camera store before they closed. I turned right, put them out of my mind.
About an hour later I’d completed my shopping. Making my way back to the highway, I could see lights in the distance. Police? Fire? I don’t know, but whatever it is, there are a lot of them. Closer still, I realize that the lights are coming from the bridge where I’d encountered them.
“No.” I thought to myself. Really? It can’t be. But what else could it be? Damn it! Should I have done something? Is it really what I think? Please, no.
As I got closer my thoughts were only confirmed. A car, with front-end damage, parked in the east bound lane. Shoes, gloves, and other personal debris, lying in the street. Marked as evidence. Damn it again! What could I have done? Sick; just a helpless, hopeless feeling.
Who were these people? What were they doing out there? Who should help them, and how?
They’re human beings. They have value. They have a story.
I don’t know what it is (or was?), but we all have a story. Some are cut short; some are untold.
Maybe there’s a reason I’ve got a camera; maybe there’s a reason I’m being pulled in this direction.
They were more than ‘panhandlers.’