The City So Nice They Named It Twice
August 16, 2008 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Thirty New York city residents pooled their strength yesterday and hoisted a wrecked school bus into the air to rescue a pregnant traffic warden trapped beneath the five-ton vehicle. Donnette Sanz, the victim of yesterday's accident, could not be saved, but her son was delivered safely at a nearby hospital.

"[A] van driven by a 72-year-old man - whose driver's licence listed 20 suspensions - slammed into her. Sanz was knocked into the path of an oncoming school bus, which was not carrying any passengers. [...] The driver of the van, Walter Walker, is being held on charges of criminally negligent homicide.

"Walker told reporters that he was driving without a licence because of unpaid parking tickets but claimed that faulty brakes had caused the accident. 'I feel bad, terrible,' he said."
posted by WCityMike (23 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Kitty Genovese no more, bitches.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:50 AM on August 16, 2008 [7 favorites]

It's sad that it takes thirty people to try and undo the actions of one idiot, but at least they tried.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:52 AM on August 16, 2008

Comparison to the Kitty Genovese case is faulty at best, Henry C. Mabuse.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:04 AM on August 16, 2008

Critical Mass as heroism.

More like this.
posted by vurnt22 at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

OK, just reading the link made me tear up a little.

Thinking about Kitty Genovese, and other similar cases, is interesting. No one called the police when Kitty was being attacked, probably because most of them thought someone else would do that relatively safe, small private but utterly important task. But in this case, no one person could lift that bus, and once a small number of people tried and failed, it made perfect sense for more and more people to try until they succeeded. No one could tell themselves, "Well, I'm sure some invisible person is trying to lift that bus right now, and I'm sure they'll succeed without my help." So the bystander effect doesn't apply, as it would in other cases where only one person needs to act, such as when a crowd of people walk past a collapsed person.

(Oh, wait: "Although in reality the police was alerted on both attacks and only one of the total of a dozen witnesses observed that there was a stabbing going on, the phenomenon is still referred to as the Genovese syndrome or Genovese effect.". How about that.)
posted by maudlin at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

The bystander's heroic effort saved one life.

Honestly, I don't know if professional rescuers would have been able to save the baby or not if the bystanders hadn't helped. But it's a much better story to think that they did, so I'm sticking with that version.

And there's a definite analogy with Kitty Genovese. Obviously the circumstances are different, but bystanders coming together to save one life is an awesome counterpoint to the Genovese trajedy.
posted by Loudmax at 11:17 AM on August 16, 2008

The word "hero" gets tossed around a lot these days and has been rendered almost meaningless.
But this is what that word is for.
posted by 2sheets at 12:02 PM on August 16, 2008 [9 favorites]

And this is not the first time we've had action like this in NYC lately -- Kitty Genovese was a long time ago. Personally, I think New Yorkers are among the most community-minded neighbors I've ever known, including that signal value of a modern urban community, minding your own business when it's called for.

It's a great town. I'm very sorry for Ms. Sanz's family's loss. But I bet New Yorkers come through with support for them too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:44 PM on August 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

What really gets me are those first 3-4 people who just decided that this was something that could happen. Unbelievable.
posted by unknowncommand at 12:48 PM on August 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

cmgonzales: Comparison to the Kitty Genovese case is faulty at best, Henry C. Mabuse.

Huh? Why not? "Bystanders do nothing to help" versus "bystanders do awesome things to help." Isn't that a sensible, and pretty cool, comparison? No?
posted by koeselitz at 1:04 PM on August 16, 2008

A story with so many sides to it. The poor pregnant woman, Donnette Sanz, who died. aww and only 33. But she lived long enough to see her baby born. May she rest in peace. I'm glad the baby has a dad to take care of him, should he survive his ordeal.

About 30 people lifted a 5 ton schoolbus, that 333.33 pounds (151 kilos) apiece. Pretty astonishing that. YAYY good and kind people.

fourcheesemac: Thanks for the link to that inspiring story about Wesley Autrey saving the life of of the guy fallen on the subway track. wow. And how wonderful his bravery was rewarded with others' appreciation.
posted by nickyskye at 4:33 PM on August 16, 2008

More images of the story.
posted by nickyskye at 4:35 PM on August 16, 2008

I once saw about one hundred people lift a logging truck in Bolivia (using a log as a lever, but still), on the road from Coroico to La Paz.
It wasn't an act of heroism, the truck had snapped an axle and was blocking the road, causing a traffic jam for about a Km in each direction. People got out of their cars and moved the damn thing out of the way.
posted by signal at 4:53 PM on August 16, 2008

Such a sad story. I've lost my brakes while driving too, but had plenty of time on a similar road to wrench the car into a parking lot and finally stop after a slight hill and hitting a parking bumper. I don't understand how the only option on a 4-lane road is to stare in horror at the inevitableness of hitting a pedestrian, but I also can't tell what the visibility is like there.

Anyway. The poor family. I'm glad their mother and wife wasn't alone.
posted by artifarce at 4:55 PM on August 16, 2008

Thinking about Kitty Genovese, and other similar cases, is interesting.

The Kitty Genovese story isn't what you think it is, according to Wikipedia:
Later investigation by police and prosecutors revealed that approximately a dozen (but almost certainly not the 38 cited in the Times article) individuals nearby had heard or observed portions of the attack, though none could have seen or been aware of the entire incident.[7] Only one witness (Joseph Fink) was aware she was stabbed in the first attack, and only Karl Ross was aware of it in the second attack. Many were entirely unaware that an assault or homicide was in progress; some thought that what they saw or heard was a lovers' quarrel or a drunken brawl or a group of friends leaving the bar outside when Moseley first approached Genovese...While Genovese's neighbors were vilified by the article, "Thirty-Eight onlookers who did nothing" is a misleading conception. The article begins:
"For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens."
The lead is dramatic but factually inaccurate. None of the witnesses observed the attacks in their entirety. Because of the layout of the complex and the fact that the attacks took place in different locations, no witness saw the entire sequence. Most only heard portions of the incident without realizing its seriousness, a few saw only small portions of the initial assault, and no witnesses directly saw the final attack and attempted rape in an exterior hallway which resulted in Genovese's death.[1]
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:00 PM on August 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

So much for the "30 people were standing around and no one saw a damned thing" cliché.
posted by bwg at 5:11 PM on August 16, 2008


They should name the son Jerome-Bettis.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 5:23 PM on August 16, 2008

Yeah, bwg tried to tell that to Rorschach and he dropped him down an elevator shaft.
posted by benzenedream at 5:29 PM on August 16, 2008

So much for the "30 people were standing around and no one saw a damned thing" cliché.

I blame Harlan Ellison for it, myself.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:14 PM on August 16, 2008

Back in the 70s it would have only taken like 15 people to do this.
posted by Camofrog at 9:10 PM on August 16, 2008

There was at least one Incredible Hulk storyline centering on Bruce Banner's investigations of incidents of extraordinary strength, such as a woman lifting a burning car off her daughter's body.

I blame Harlan Ellison for it, myself.

The gangbanger himself? (I can't help but see Shia LaBoeuf in this role today.)

About 30 people lifted a 5 ton schoolbus, that 333.33 pounds (151 kilos) apiece.

They probably only tipped it. I'm not sure what the mechanical advantage is in that case. I doubt it was the equivalent of a bench-press.

Anyway, somehow the Genovese story gets tagged as "uncaring New York" instead of "classic dilemmas of modern life". I don't know why that is. Just this month we had a letter to the editor in my Midwestern town about a woman who apparently collapsed on a downtown street corner in full view of morning workbound traffic, and only a couple of people called 911, the first being a nurse who was turning the corner and couldn't believe nobody was attending to her. It's not at all clear how many people saw her; one building at the intersection is still vacant following spring flooding, for instance. But this can happen anywhere.

As a veteran of many 911 calls in my (formerly?) crime-challenged neighborhood, I can also say it's very easy to only have a fraction of the story.
posted by dhartung at 10:28 PM on August 16, 2008

I read this elsewhere first, and the first comment said something to the effect of, "Terrible. But at least it had a happy ending."

I don't see much happiness here. But it is nice to hear of bystanders helping someone in trouble.
posted by agregoli at 8:17 AM on August 18, 2008

Now there isn't even the semblance of a "happy ending," -- the baby died.
posted by Locative at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2008

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