While running on Forbidden Drive in the Wissahickon last Friday, August 15 I heard the ripping sound of a tree falling. At first I wasn't certain what tree it was, but I knew it was close to me. Then I saw a massive tree fall a few yards in front of me. On the other side of the tree was an elderly woman walking a small poodle. I heard her screaming before the tree hit. As soon as it fell I began to climb through it to get to her. Behind me was another runner, a young woman who joined me in scrambling through the tree. We reached the old woman and found that she was seemingly okay but her dog got clocked. She was wailing and holding the bleeding dog. The runner fortunately had a cell phone, so she called 911 (but there were no area locators around us) and she called the old woman's veterinarian with advance notice that she was on her way. I asked her if she had a husband, family member, or friend she could call. She said she had no one. Since she was about a mile from her car on a path, crying, and carrying a bleeding dog, I asked the runner to stay with the woman while I ran ahead to the parking lot to find someone to agree to drive back to pick her up to drive her to her car. When I got to the parking lot by the Valley Green Inn, I found some bicyclists who agreed to get her, but their car was locked in the parking lot (there's a convoluted way to get in and out for part of the day and night), so I had a find a cook in the not-yet-open restaurant who didn't speak English well and get her to agree to open the gate. By the time the bike guy and I drove towards the woman and the runner, she was nearly at the parking lot. I helped her into the truck and away she went.
Upon returning home I was hit was the impact of what I witnessed and took part in. Mostly I felt bad for the woman and the dog. I didn't know if the dog would survive and I didn't catch the name of the vet she was taking it to. I tried calling some area vets to see if they saw one of their patients with a tree-damaged dog, but I had no luck.
Come Saturday morning, I heard from Adam/Atom Goren of Fracture and Atom and His Package. It seems his wife Jenn was at their vet at the same time this woman came in with the dog. Jenn later related the story to Adam, who then saw my Facebook posting about the incident and connected them. He told me the name and location of the vet (which rang a bell in my head) and I called that morning to talk to the receptionist at the office. She knew exactly what I was talking about. Once I explained who I was in connection to the story, she was very willing to talk and said some kind things to me. At the office they were fond of the woman and her dog. Alas, however, the dog needed to be euthanized. She asked for my name and telephone number in case the woman wanted to thank me. I didn't need to be thanked and I thought she might not want to think more about that awful morning, but I gave her the information.
The next day I ran was that Sunday morning (I skipped Saturday as I had to work a convention in NJ). In the time since the tree fell and Sunday morning it had been cleared away, leaving only a line of bright green leaves across Forbidden Drive and a stump at the edge of the path. As I approached the spot where the tree fell and ultimately killed the small dog, a russet fox came bounding from one side of Forbidden Drive and ran across the Drive precisely where the tree fell and to the other side, where it disappeared into the forest. A fox is a rare and wonderful sight in the Wissahickon, especially on a Sunday when many people are in the park. No one one else was there to see the creature. I was struck: death -- but life.
A few days later I saw Logan, a man I see when I'm out running and with whom I'm friendly. I had already told him about the incident, so when he came upon the woman he knew all about it and talked to her about what happened. She adopted a dog the day after the accident and was walking with her new dog.
Last night she called me to thank me and send me blessings. I missed the call, but I'll call back today.
It's been a strange -- and ultimately tragic -- chain of events, but it could have been far worse. On the path no signs of what occured a week ago remain. Even the trail of leaves has been dispersed in the wind.