Excerpt from Rescue 911, available everywhere October 10, 2017…
He’s twelve years old, been in this country for three years. He was crossing the busy part of Elmwood Ave, right in front of the library at dusk when either he walked into a moving auto or the moving auto hit him. The stories from the driver and the pedestrian are never the same.
The only thing I really cared about was the patent’s injuries. He held his right foot in the cradle of his hands. I sat next to him on the sidewalk and asked him where he was hurt.
“Just my ankle,” he said, solemn, his eyes never making contact with my own, his head bent toward the ground. I noticed scars on his head, long healed but still prominent through neatly cropped hair.
His father was at home, a few streets over. I got a phone for him to use from Ariel, one of the firefighters from Engine 11 who had been called to assist with a child struck by an auto. Abdi pushed the right buttons but nobody answered. We helped him to the back of the rescue where Rob took his vital signs. Abdi pushed up his sleeve to make room for the blood pressure cuff and exposed an eight inch scar running the length of his arm.
Rob and I saw the scar, looked at each other, then at Abdi who looked away.
He didn’t say much, didn’t smile or relax the way most boys eventually do when with Providence Firefighters. He answered our questions politely and let us put ice on his ankle. On the way to the hospital I asked where he came from.
“Africa,” he replied.
“Is it nice there?” I asked, knowing the street where he lived to be one of the worst in Providence. Abdi looked afraid and shook his head quickly from side to side.
“Where in Africa?” I asked.
“Somalia.” He mumbled the word, almost like it was a curse.
I sat back on the bench seat and wondered what kind of life this poor kid led before escaping to this country.
And what kind of life lay ahead of him.