By Sam Fiske
The day started normally enough. I got off at the metro stop, earphones in, walking with the morning crowd past the corner of 13th and G Streets. As the first person in the newsroom, I fired up my laptop, filled my water bottle and sent a couple texts and an email reply to prep for the day as web producer.
But within half an hour, the day got novel.
My colleague, Brian MacIver, walked into the newsroom with a blank expression, telling me that only a few feet from that very corner of 13th and G someone had apparently fallen from a building into the middle of the road. The body, “splattered” across the tar road, appeared to be a man who took his own life while busy Washington professionals walked by to carry on with their busy lives.
Loss is often met with denial and confusion on how to process. Fellow reporter Connor Morgan couldn’t believe my texts before he walked into the mess of police cars and a tarp draped over the body. He admitted he didn’t know how to deal with witnessing the remains of what looks to be a suicide to start the day.
Neither, apparently, did anyone else.
When Connor and I left the newsroom, fellow elevator passengers, in frantic but hushed tones, discussed the unknown man who apparently fell and how the event affected them, Connor tried sending a photo of the body over text and someone immediately exclaimed,”Did you get a picture of the dead guy? Can I see?”
More elevator chatter: People wondering if they were making their own news by seeing the “dead guy.”
Some drivers honked to move traffic while other drivers who realized the serious situation got out of their cars to watch. Local shop employees stood outside their stores, talking animatedly to each other while watching the police forensics team photograph the fallen man.
The closer you got to the police tape cordoning off the intersection, the quieter the crowd got.
Yet even while sucked into the horrifying public scene, the smooth vocals from a street musician at the top of the metro stop stairs 20 yards away serenaded the background. People still have to make a living.
Which made the episode all the more surreal. How much do you ponder the who, what, and why on what is otherwise a normal day of work? Even today as web producer, I had to record a video in a much different tone than the scene I witnessed minutes before. How can we possibly know the impact of seeing such a tragedy on others? On ourselves?
We may never know the full answer, or why the man fell. I know I’ll walk by that same corner tonight with a busy crowd. I’ll look up and think about a life that was lost only a few feet away. But after a moment of pause, I’ll have to keep moving, like the rest of DC.