I couldn’t get there. I was chest to the ground on a dirt-cheap motel deck. I’d dropped to that position because I’d heard the sound of death ring out 5 or 6 times. I knew it was gunfire. I knew that someone might need help. I knew CPR.
When I got to my feet and looked over the rail, a black car was speeding away. Someone down on the sidewalk had bullet holes in them. I acted quickly, told the friend who was with me to call 911, and ran down the hallway. I ran down a flight of stairs. People were outside of their rooms, standing in front of open doors. They all looked like zombies.
I couldn’t get there because I froze in that moment. The eyes of a woman made contact with mine. She had an arm wrapped around one of her children, the other hand covering her mouth, and tears in her eyes like she was sitting in the crowd at a funeral.
Her presence didn’t scare me, knowing why she was crying did. I knew I’d turn the corner at the end of the motel parking lot to find a bloody person nearing death. I knew that if I was the first one to them, I’d have to give mouth-to-mouth through moans of blood. I knew that I’d be pressing on a chest and staring at internal organs. I knew that person would probably die in my hands.
I got my feet to move, though they felt like cement. I could have run the distance in 10 seconds, but it seemed like it took all day to walk there. When I made it to the street, I saw a young boy laying on his back. Two bloody bullet holes and moans of pain caught my attention right away. A man my age was performing CPR. A woman I think of as the boy’s mother pressed a hoodie against his wounds, screaming through tears for him to stay awake.
I stood 15-feet away and just watched it happen. The life left his body shortly after paramedics and police arrived. The only medical attention he received was from his mother, and from the man my age performing CPR.
I know that he was 12-years old, on his way home from football practice, a few days away from his first game. I’ll never know if I could have saved that kid though, if I’d just been able to run through the fear, if the thought of him dying in my hands hadn’t prevented me from trying to save him.
Rest in peace Joey Mendoza… I’m sorry that I couldn’t get there.
— Lee Stone —