When you come upon people in pain
It was an ordinary day of commuting Cameron Hollopeter. The 20-year-old film student made his way down the steps into a New York City subway station to wait for the train. All of a sudden, something went horribly wrong in the young man's brain, sending him into a violent seizure. Hollopeter fell to the ground, got back up again, and began stumbling along the edge of the subway platform. Moments later, he tumbled down into the railway bed, just as the rumbling of an approaching train began to shake the station.
No one managed to capture the moment on video, but we know how the people in the subway probably reacted. Some turned away, eyes clenched against the horror of what was happening. Other commuters stood frozen in a sense of utter helplessness. Others were in such a hurry to get to where they needed to go, that they missed the moment altogether. In mere seconds, a young man with dreams of becoming a Hollywood producer would meet an unthinkably violent end, and no one could stop it. No one would stop it.
Except the one man who did.
A 50-year-old construction worker named Wesley Autrey did the unthinkable. Autrey crossed the boundary of horror that withered all the others in the subway. He pulled his feet from the concrete shoes of helplessness that froze others. He stepped over the high curb of hurry despite being busy taking his two daughters home before he went to work. This middle-aged black man from Harlem who had little in common with a white Harvard student, chose to do what no one else at that scene elected to do: he chose to cross over.
Autrey strode across that subway platform, jumped down into the ditch, and covered Hollopeter's bloodied, writhing body with his own. He held Hollopeter against the ground ...
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Dan Meyer is pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Illinois.