A recap of a news story from April, 2010. I've been thinking about it quite a bit lately, and it's always stuck with me. I guess I just finally decided to write a little something about it...
A man saved a woman from an attacker wielding a knife. In the process, the man was stabbed by the attacker. The woman escaped, as did the assailant.
The person who came to the woman’s aid was an illegal immigrant, also a vagrant, eventually identified as 31-year-old Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax from Guatemala. After being stabbed, he laid motionless on the sidewalk for more than an hour before anyone bothered to stop. Roughly 25 people walked by, some stepping over, the dying hero, offering little more than curious glances before continuing onward; at one point, a man actually snaps a photo of Tale-Yax with his cell phone. While police received four 911 calls around the time the woman being attacked was heard screaming, no subsequent calls were made. Further, the woman who was attacked never came forward to authorities concerning the incident, nor has she been identified. The assailant also has yet to be apprehended for this murder. Police arrived on the scene an hour and a half after the incident and pronounced Tale-Yax dead.
So, a homeless man comes to the rescue of a woman being attacked and, in the process, gets fatally stabbed. But because he’s a street person, those walking by his body don’t stop. Tale-Yax could have been on the streets for numerous reasons, but the fact remains that because of the appearance of his situation he was viewed by those that passed him as unworthy of their concern. While the dozens of individuals who neglected to assist so easily the needs of a dying man no doubt felt great remorse upon learning the true nature of the situation, that does not excuse their actions (or lack thereof). No one should need a reason to be concerned for another human being lying on a sidewalk motionless for an hour, regardless of whether an individual believes that human being is high and lying there because of the effects of narcotics. Either we’re members of a compassionate society in which the thought of walking by a person unconscious on the pavement is utterly unacceptable, or we are a society that feigns compassion, employing the term when it suits our purposes and nothing more.
No matter Tale-Yax’s situation, the reality is that he came to the defense of a woman being attacked. Like those that ignored him after the fact, he could have chosen not to intervene. Had he not, he would still be alive, but decided otherwise. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax displayed the sort of concern for a complete stranger in distress that should have been afforded him. What that says about our society collectively is repulsive. What that says about a man that most would consider a societal burden speaks volumes.