Who is to blame?
Summer in San Diego is really a treat, and a season I have missed a lot while living abroad. Most people are out and about, seek activities outdoors and just soak up the blue skies and sunny weather.
Coronado has a Concerts in the Park series which began May 29th and runs until September 11th. My friends Michelle and Carrie invited me to the July 3rd concert and I accepted with enthusiasm. I love Coronado and was eager to celebrate 4th of July weekend.
Michelle and I were lucky to find a great parking spot (thanks to the miniature sizeof my MINI!) right across the street from the park and met up with Carrie, who lives in Coronado to reserve her favorite and “usual” spot on the grass.
I was impressed with all of the things people brought with them to the park. Large ice chests and folding chairs aside, people brought full-sized/on wheels BBQs, large foldable tables and some tables which looked straight from the dining room. The city lifted an alcohol ban for the concert series and so the bottles of wine, beer and mixers flowed generously. It was a first for Michelle and I who brought only a blanket to sit on, making us feel not only a novice, but as though we were seated at the kids table in and amongst adults in camping chairs.
The music starts at 6:00pm, and some enthusiastic visitors make their way toward the gazebo to dance on the grass or just dance at their picnic spot. Most folks enjoy the music as a backdrop to friendly conversation and campfire-like storytelling.
The three of us gals were talking, actually is was me who was yapping, when an absolutely unexpected and not-in-the-program event took place. In mid sentence, I heard this crackle and pop and looked up at a large Eucalyptus tree. At that moment, a large branch had snapped and was falling to the ground. Without other branches to break the fall, few people under the tree were able to move quickly enough and get out of the way. One man who was sitting in a chair, just wasn’t able to move at all and happened to be right in the line of the falling branch. It struck him on the head.
What ensued after that was a series of events which still have me shaking my head…
Many people stood around staring at the man and not helping. The people who were there with the man were taking care of him, and a few other guys pitched in to remove the branch (The branch was so big it took 3 grown men to lift it), but most onlookers just stood and stared. (It made me feel like I was in Vietnam, where everyone stares, but doesn’t help the hapless victim.)
All around, you could hear people say, “Well, there’s a lawsuit,” or “That’s an expensive tree,” and “That guy is going to get a lot of money from this.” Really? The branch randomly snapped off. It was really a freak accident. Why is it that someone has to be “at fault” for the incident? Why does blame need to be placed? Can we really not comprehend that it was an unfortunate accident? For goodness sake, no one could imagine this scenario nor want for it to happen.
The paramedics arrived quickly and which drew even more looky-loos as the guy was taken away. The city workers showed up about the same time, and along with the firemen, decided they needed to move everyone away from the tree and with police tape, sectioned off a circle around the tree, about 20 feet in diameter. Is this the protocol for fallen branches? Was this done because there might actually be a danger that more branches would fall, or was it done to just look good and responsible, as though the situation was being taken seriously and appropriate response taking place? Do you think there is a page in some manual that refers to this type of incident? Will they write one?
Most of the people at the park did not see the event and simply carried on with their picnics. The band still played and people still ate, drank and danced. But even after the man had been taken away and the under-tree had been sectioned off, several people came over to the section and stood there looking up at the tree. Were they trying to identify the guilty branch stub? Searching for the next branch likely to fall? Were they silently cursing the tree? More than one person stood in several spots and glanced up, trying to solve the crime, apparently. I was puzzled. What purpose did that serve? (That’s about the time I took a picture, because I was baffled by the number of people looking at the darn tree.)
As it got darker and we decided to meet up at McPhee’s, the city trucks drove up under the tree. I was almost certain they were going to cut the darn thing down and so had to ask a worker what they were doing. He said they had to assess if there were any other loose branches or any weak ones which may fall. I asked if they had to do this at night, and he explained that it had to be done before people were in the park the next day (early action in the park on 4th of July). I imagine the efforts were made simply to avoid any lawsuits from future falling branches.
I’m sorry that guy got hit in the head by a branch. That pretty much sucks. What a crappy thing to happen when you’re just trying to enjoy a picnic and some live music. But the over-reaction afterward and the assumption that the city would be sued and this guy would get millions of dollars… well that just makes me mad and embarrassed. That’s not my America.