Hard Lessons – will we ever learn?

June 18, 2020

Started like every other day under the Covid-19 lockdown. Wake-up, make coffee, power up the work computer and start working. Since all the gyms are closed, I’ve made it a habit of walking/running 8km at some point during the day.

This particular day, I left my house at 11:45am walking at a pace of about 10mins/km.

The intersection of Torbram Road and Country Side Drive is approximately 3km from my front door. I’ve passed this intersection 100s of times over the last 27 years, but today would be different!

At the intersection, while on the Phone with my mom, I turned East along Country Side Drive. Approximately 100 Metres East of the Intersection (even with noise cancelling AirPods in my ears), I heard and felt the crunching of melt and glass! I turned in time to see a slightly airborne white SUV hit a light standard with a sound that felt like the thundering of stampeding elephants.

The light standard snapped, crushing the White SUV. I yelled, “holy fuck! Mom I’ll call you back”.

I ran back towards the intersection as I surveyed the carnage! I ran past a frantic lady who stopped her car by the side of the road. She was yelling: “there’s a baby in the SUV”. Her voice still echos in my head.

Now, I’m standing in front of the burning sea blue G35, a couple of Good Samaritans are pulling the driver out of the burning vehicle. I stood immobilized, not capable of moving as the driver was whaling and grimacing in pain and agony. He was the lucky one, I know that now, but I knew it then too! This is why I couldn’t move!

I’m my years as a claims adjudicator early in my career, I was required to read police, hospital, doctors, workers, and employers accident reports to adjudicate claims.

As I continued to survey this catastrophic event my heart sank with every fibre of my being. My mind was processing the scene, my heart continued to sink as I knew that no one in the White SUV was going to survive.

Was it a premonition or just an educated assumption? I was still immobilized as I fumbled for my phone, “shit, not that phone, that’s my work phone” (a sign of the times). I found my phone and started recording the mayhem in front of me.

However, what I witnessed was not Mayhem!

I saw people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, colour and religions coming together to help the occupants in all four vehicles. They worked valiantly together erratically but calmly and gently pulling three infants out of the crushed white SUV to safety. They started CPR. Others found blankets and brought them to comfort the little victims.

Brady, the driver of he G35, continued yelling in pain!

Within minutes there was a regiment of police cars on the scene! Fire and ambulances soon followed, they all got into the fray! Police officers took over from the tired Good Samaritans and continued CPR on the girls, firefighters then stepped in to allow the officers to get control of the scene.

One gentleman upon seeing the ambulances raced towards them yelling: “Over here! Bring ventilators”

The first medical responders took over and continued trying to stabilize the young victims!

What I witnessed this day was that out of tragedy, the community showed up transcending all the social and political issues currently evident in the news.

I witnessed the best of humanity! kindness, empathy, sympathy, respect, caring, community!

One outcome of the Danforth tragedy was “Just Do Kindness”. In a world where you can be anything, be kind!

This coming together of the community should be a model for resolving all of our social and political issue!

Diversity is our strength, let’s leverage it!

On a personal note, to the Father and Husband that lost everything. I can’t possibly understand what you are going through this Father’s Day! However, know that I feel for you and your loss as does the community!

We are with you in solidarity. God Bless!

All, always Be Kind! Respect each other, and the laws where we live!

Cover-to-Cover

Books have always been an integral part of my family history. My grandfather had a library in his house in Italy with over 10,000 books. The oldest book I perused was printed in 1550. It was called Ciceronis Orationum. Unfortunately, this book, like most of the books in this collection, were lost to family politics. The only remaining books finding their way to Canada was a 1775 version of the same titled book, and a series of Jules Verne classics printed in the mid-to-late 1800s.

In our family, books were more than a path to knowledge! They were period pieces that spoke to the culture and human spirit at a point in time. They were windows to the soul of the author. They were springboards to new ideas, innovations, and inspirations. They made us think, laugh, cry, escape, and even ponder alternate realities through fantasy and science fiction. Books took us places, and led us through journeys not possible anywhere else.

In short, books stirred feeling in us that expanded our realm of possibilities, what could be more human than that?

On a trip to Rome in 2008, I fondly remember performing several very clumsy pirouettes in the center of the Roman Coliseum. It wasn’t the first time I was there, however, it was the first time I was on a trip where I felt absolutely insignificant. I marveled at the history of this place, the people that lived, worked, taught, learned, created, and died here throughout the ages.

My mind was bombarded by the historical possibilities, the realities of lives lived, and lives lost in this time-weathered place. What stories are known? Which are unknown? What key learning has been brought forward through time? Have we missed more than what we know? And what will we never know? Forever lost to history.

The rush of information which permeated my senses as I stood in this place trying to recall what I knew about Ancient Rome was overwhelming. What experiences, hardships, heartaches, successes, failures have this place seen?  I shivered with delight and shuddered with insignificance of my own mortality. I thought, how could I live multiple lives in one lifetime?

I remembered, decades earlier, when picking up Ciceronis Orationum.  It was illegible, written wholly in Latin. Reading the book was not an option, however, I do remember saying: “Dad, I’m holding history. How many hands do you think touched this book? What kind of person would have read this book? What would they say of its content?”

My father was an intellect. He was very cerebral – logical and precise, I guess as a chemist, you need to be. He thought deeply about many things and one example he had hanging in his study which now hangs in mine, its origin is unknown to me.

English translation of picture above:

Here live men who have outlived themselves

Here they speak silently

Here they listen and remain quiet

Here they are interrogated and mute is there response

The feelings and the questions inspired by this old book so many years ago where similar to the feelings and thoughts I had standing in the Roman Coliseum.

This book inspired me to love books as did standing in the center of the coliseum in Rome inspired me to love a life of life-long learning. This was the impetus that led me to Dalhousie’s MBA(FS) program. A thirst for knowledge and experiences.

Having completed my MBA(FS) in 2015, and with some serious time on my hands, I have started to collect books, all kinds of books. I tend to shy away from digital books because there is no better feeling then immersing oneself in a book, flipping the pages, using a bookmark, and reading it cover-to-cover.

The Hands of an Angel touched my Heart!

I woke up the morning of November 6, 2017 and realized that 50 years this day, I woke up in hospital groggy and disorientated.  I didn’t know why. I knew that something was to happen. Why am I here? I thought.  I think I’m sick, but I feel fine.  I fall back asleep, I wake again, the walls are moving.  I hear voices.  They are unrecognizable.  I see everything in a haze.  I’m frightened.  I doze off again.  I wake again.  Is this a dream? Where are my parents? They must be here!  They have to be here!  They wouldn’t leave me????  Would they?  My birthday is coming, I’ll be five this year, I think…I doze off again…

I wake up minutes later more groggy more disoriented, but this time my chest feels heavy.  I’m in a plastic tent.  I hear voices.  The air is clean.  It smells funny, but clean.  Through the plastic, I see my parents. I think they’re my parents.  They’re wearing gloves, masks, and gowns. I fall back asleep…

Unknown to me at the time, but obvious today…that the hands of an angel had touched my heart.

This is all I remember from this day 50 years ago at Sickkids, known then as the Hospital for Sick Children.  An Atrial-Septal defect repair was performed that day. Routine surgery today, but 50 years ago it was being pioneered by the world-renowned Surgeon Dr. William Mustard.

The Hands of an Angel touched My Heart!

Dr. Mustard and his team gave me a chance at life.  I am and will always remain eternally grateful for him, and the staff at Sickkids. Not to mention the parents who reared him, the teachers who taught him, the mentors who groomed him, and the colleagues that challenged him to make a difference.

Forever grateful!