Wednesday, August 29, 2012
ZAIDEE JENSEN'S ACCIDENT
The accident that took the life of Zaidee Jensen has impacted my life. I know I am not alone in this. I expect it has affected the lives of all blind and visually impaired Edmontonians who take the LRT. We are a small group. We might not know each other, but a well-publicized accident that happens to one of us happens to all of us. Last week we were noticeable. This week we are more noticeable. Zaidee’s visual impairment focuses attention on specific threats to those of us with limited vision. I notice the difference in the people around me. It could be that my imagination is working overtime, but I don’t think so. I detect the anxiety that rises in strangers. They see me on the platform with a white cane and they fear that they will witness something terrible. It has never been unusual for people to offer me help, though it does not happen on most days. But on 2 out of the past 3 days, people have asked if I need help. Offering help seems to have increased. And something else has changed. Refusing help has become problematic. The would-be helpers have hovered apologetically close at hand when I replied that I did not need help. This morning’s volunteer helper made a declaration. “I’ll just stay here with you anyway,” she said. I notice changes in myself. With or without help, I am trying to be a little more attentive on the platform. I am taking a moment to think where I am, to orient myself in reference to things around me. Prevention being an immeasurable concept, I’ll never know how many accidents I didn’t have. But attentiveness can’t do me any harm. It is easy enough to let your mind wander and make a mistake. Every year, at least one person falls on the LRT tracks in Edmonton. They probably fall for a variety of reasons. Most of these people are not visually impaired. Fortunately, most are not seriously injured, let alone killed by a head injury. Because of all the attention paid to this particular accident, life is a little different for me this week than it was last week. Last week I liked to think of myself as a safely independent visually impaired LRT traveller. I liked to think that people didn’t notice me. It’s an illusion you can enjoy when your vision is poor. You don’t see people staring. You can convince yourself that they are not. This week I still want to be independent, but I like to think that I am a little safer. Strangers are watching over me. I am more careful, and there is a promising move afoot to ensure that LRT platforms are as safe as they can be. Every time I take the train my sympathies go out to the family and friends who are mourning the loss of Zaidee Jensen, a visually impaired person who suffered a terrible accident. . Accidents have a ripple effect that reaches well beyond the circles of people who know each other. To be human is to be a participant in a world where the experiences of strangers draw them nearer to each other. To excavate hope from the rubble of tragedy is to do what Zaidee’s family has done in a very public way—to express the belief that something good can come from it.