In the Midst of Trauma
by Charles Karel Bouley

I’ve been trying to find something to compare the horror that I feel; some other life experiences people go through that tear their souls out, that rip their heart literally out of their chest so they simply don’t want to live.

One minute I’m walking my two beloved dogs, the 50 pound, 10-year-old chow chow Atilla and the personality-filled bundle of 11 pounds of love, the four year old Pippa Maria, crossing a street with the light talking on the phone to friends and the next Pippa is being horribly mangled in front of me by a woman that simply didn’t see us on the sidewalk and turned left full speed.

The blood, the mangled body, the horror of finding my other dog who appeared all right and getting to the nearest vet, her blood soaking my clothing, the noises a creature makes as it’s dying. The love of my life, my energy, the light of our house, crumpled, bleeding, broken because the sun was in someone’s eyes.

Atilla appeared to be OK after a check, and we came home, silently. I stripped naked in the front room, the blood soaked clothing being put in to a bag. I ran to the shower and played out a scene from “Carrie,” washing the caked on blood off my arms, my legs, all over, watching it mix with the water and swirl down he drain. The blood of my little girl, of my Pippa. The girl who for almost three years helped us come to life, the girl I found on Valentine’s day in a pet store cage, walking on her hind legs to see me. Gone, forever. In a horribly gruesome way.

And why? All the stages of grief start, anger, denial…wait, the vet may call and say….acceptance is a long way off. Short of watching my husband die in front of me in the ER, this was the worst thing ever.

And now the person I was to become. As I sat screaming in the middle of 7th street in Long Beach, the dead body of my girl in my arms, blood everywhere, as I searched for my Atilla, where is he, is he OK as I sat there at that moment I was never more out of control or alone in my life. I was never more…vulnerable, more human. I was raw, I was horrified. I still am.

And I will be. I will cry every day for weeks or months and then only a few minutes a day for the rest of my life when the thought comes to mind. I will fixate on Atilla, who is not OK, and hope that whatever is wrong with him will pass. He’s 10, this has given him whiplash so to speak, so he’s on an anti-inflammatory and pain med for a few days before we go full scale vet.

As for me, I have no interest in anything at all. My radio show….I did a few but shouldn’t have. They are too raw for people too hear, too much real emotion for the average person to deal with. People don’t want to hear real emotion any more, the real cost of our actions. I can’t watch my TV show Life In Segments, Pippa is in half of this next season. She was always there, next to me, on my lap, my little girl.

And how do I forget the ending of our time together? How do I do all that self help crap about remember the good, be grateful for the short time you had, remember her love. Right now, I remember washing the blood and bits of her off of me.

A child run over in front of a parent on the way to school; a best friend of a soldier shot or blown up by an IED leaving him to carry the bloody dying body to help; a family in a car crash that sees a family member horribly die; or the countless pet owners that watch their loved ones die at the end of a leash when some driver just doesn’t see. A refugee fleeing to safety that watches their child drown or their husband get shot…a couple sitting at a cafe that explodes suddenly in gunfire or bombing and one is horribly killed….people going out to watch a movie that end up with their best friend’s blood on them…I suppose there’s no shortage of horror or terror in the world and while many of you may think mine pales by comparison trust me, it doesn’t. The pain is as horrible as the day after Andrew died.

I’ve spoken on air since about adjectives and how the news cycle has made us numb to what they really mean. For instance, did you know that one person every two hours, or 12 a day or 4380 people a year die on crosswalks, and over 250 a day are injured. Now, what if I told you that ISIS was going to kill 12 Americans a day until we did something about it. As many people die annually on crosswalks as did on 9/11 and we haven’t spent three trillion dollars on roadway safety.

Why? Why do pedestrians and vehicles even mix? The crosswalk system was invented, well, when roads were. But even the Romans knew to elevate crossways of busy roads. We build walkways over or under trains, yet in the last ten years under 500 pedestrians have been killed by them. We make railroad stops that have flashing lights, wooden barriers and so much more but crosswalks we just paint some lines and call it day.

Taylor Swift gives out bracelets at her concerts that change color to the music, each and every song but we don’t have a lighting system to alert drivers people are walking? Our infrastructure is falling apart at the seams, cities need to be rethought and rebuilt from the ground up smarter and we can’t start with elevated crossways on any intersection with more than two lanes of traffic flowing in any one direction (meaning four lanes or more)? Pedestrian tunnels? Barriers that rise when people are on the crosswalk? We really, truly, can’t do better than some painted lines that thousands die and more are injured on annually?

Because ever dog run over, ever person hit and killed or injured is someone’s family member, someone’s loved one, someone’s Pippa.

“I was a cop for 25 years,” the Uber driver told my friend Hanna as she was on the phone with me telling her my story on speaker. “I can’t tell you how dangerous crosswalks are, how many times we were called out for someone getting hit while legally crossing the road.”

This from the CDC: How big is the problem? In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, and another 76,000 pedestrians were injured.This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 2 hours, and a pedestrian injury every 7 minutes. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip. And more than one in every five children between the ages of 5 and 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians. Pedestrians ages 65 and older accounted for 20% of all pedestrian deaths.

So we are running over children, seniors, pets…and what is your city doing about it? Probably nothing. The City of West Hollywood has installed solar flashing reflectors at the cross walks; other Los Angeles county cities have put in crossing lights on the sidewalks, a few even elevated or raised them. But usually only the affluent areas.

I ride a motorcycle. Everyone wants me to stop. They say it’s too dangerous. Well, it appears the stats say that being a pedestrian carries about the same dangers because roughly 4400 riders die a year.

And as for our pets, there’s not even numbers on those. But there’s lots of stories on the internet of people walking their dogs legally on leashes and they are run down right in front of them. And that’s not even a crime.

For instance, the woman that ran over my beloved Pippa and mangled and killed her, the ticket would be unsafe left turn or illegal left turn, a misdemeanor ticket. Financially, she could be liable for the price of the dog and any vet bills. The price of the dog, meaning, what you paid for it. And that’s it. That’s all. Kill someone’s heart and that’s the most that can happen. Grow a pot plant in some states go to jail for years.

So I wake each morning to an empty bed, gone is the yawning ritual, the ears peaking out from under the blankets, the toe biting, the joy that my little girl brought to me every morning. Gone is Atilla’s little sister, who made him get up and greet the day as well, and whom he protected from all harm, allowing her to run under him in times of danger.

And like those I mentioned above, the horror of the incident replays in my mind every time I close my eyes or think of my little girl. And while that may pass in time, I have it now and I needn’t.

Horrific things happen instantly and when you least expect them. And they change you forever. And people expect you to just go on, to get over things, to move on. I’ve already been told to get another dog, and one day, I may. I know right now there’s so many little girls (and boys) out there in shelters on concrete floors behind bars or in cages waiting for a forever home. And I know I, and Atilla, have lots of love to give. Right now, I’m in simple shock. I just want to sleep. I don’t want to go to the motorcycle show, film my TV show, eat…I just want to cry, hug Atilla and, well, cry some more.

To anyone that’s gone through something traumatic, I’m sorry society just doesn’t get it. I’m sorry that they’ve devalued words like horrific, mortifying, terror so that we hear them every day and they now mean so little.

Because at 5:00am alone in bed, they mean so much. When I’m walking Atilla, alone now, me crying, him looking around for his sister, I know the meaning of mortified.

And every single time I approach a cross walk in the United States where we don’t seem to care about pedestrian safety, I will treat it like a war zone to survive.

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