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Duke of Gloucester Encounter

February 17, 2023

A little before noon on December 29, 2022, I was about a half mile into what I expected to be a five-mile walk. I left the parking lot at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and walked past the archeological site of the historic First Baptist Church. When I reached Duke of Gloucester Street, I turned left and walked past the temporary ice rink, which looked like it was about to open for the day. I kept going toward William & Mary and the Wren Building, then crossed the street to the corner occupied by the Talbot’s Store. Well, almost to the corner. Woman FallingBecause, just as I had crossed Duke of Gloucester and stepped onto the brick-paved sidewalk, I realized I was falling. Falling with no chance to keep my feet and legs under me, unable to do anything but observe myself landing on the bricks with my left arm and shoulder taking the brunt of it all. I was not in pain, but a man sitting on a bench within two or three feet of me gruffly barked out, “Stay down! Don’t you dare get up.” Something within my normally headstrong self told me not to question, but just obey.

Man on BenchImmediately, the same gruff voice started issuing orders to the people nearby; mostly tourists, I’m guessing. He told one person to call 911, adding, “Tell them a woman walking on Duke of Gloucester right outside Talbot’s has fallen and is seriously injured.” He then started telling other people to move away and absolutely not to move or even touch me. He told me to stay still, just as gruffly as he had said everything else, but then added, “I’m not going anywhere until an ambulance gets here and takes you away.”

Take care of her!When an ambulance did arrive, the man continued being my spokesperson, telling the EMTs exactly how I had fallen: “She needs to really get checked out, because she fell for no reason. She was walking fine, didn’t trip or stumble; just went down. She fell sort of soft, even, but look how out of place her fingers are on her left hand.” That’s when I first noticed the odd angles of those fingers and knew I had to let the EMTs take me to the hospital. As they lifted me onto a board, I called, “Thank you!” to the man on the bench, but his only response was to bark to the EMTs, “Take care of her!” A moment later, I was inside the ambulance and headed for Doctors Hospital, where I would learn that I had broken all the fingers of my left hand. From fall to ER, it was just a handful of minutes.

"...he had never once spoken to me — until the day I really needed him to."

I walk often in Colonial Williamsburg, and I had seen my gruff caretaker there numerous times before. He’d always had a grumpy expression and downcast demeanor, but I always gave him an upbeat “Hello” and said it was good to see him again. I could always tell he had heard me, but he had never once spoken to me — until the day I really needed him to. 

I’ve thought of that gentleman often since that late December day. My husband and I have been walking in Colonial Williamsburg a couple of times since my fall, with me using a Rollator to guard against another fall as I await a thorough checkup by a neurologist. We’ve gone back to the place I fell, and throughout our walks we’ve watched for him. No luck yet, but I’ll keep trying. If I do see him again, I don’t know what he will let me say to him before he turns his back and walks away. But, I’ll know. I’ll know that he sees and hears and cares and is willing to act way beyond his usual comfort zone when someone needs him to. I’d like to do something to show him how much he did for a frightened old lady. My hunch, though, is that I might think of something to do that would make me feel good — but only me. He met me when and how I needed him to, and he deserves no less from me.

"I’ll know that he sees and hears and cares and is willing to act way beyond his usual comfort zone when someone needs him to."

Leslie Stacks

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