The man was belly up on the grass and it appeared he was a goner. Three paramedics were kneeling next to him and they worked his white flesh with the quiet deliberation of career life-savers. Islands of onlookers were all around and the police were moving into the fray.
“Anything I can do?” one of them asked.
“Can you spike a bag?”
“I can learn.”
The IV was inserted and the medics continued to press down on the chest that would not rise and fall on its own. I was leaning in from a nearby bench and watching the scene, wondering vaguely who the man was and what had caused his body to betray him. The drama of it all was strangely quiet, not a Hollywood scene at all.
Then it turned into a horror movie.
There was murmuring behind me – soft, meaningless whispers like wind rolling through treetops. Only sound, but it tickled the back of my neck like a spider. I spun around and there they were, a flock of about 60. They stood in dresses and suits with heads upraised and arms held high, men, women and children come to pray for the fallen man. They did it softly, in a form of communication, maybe, that was just short of telepathy.
“Heavenly father …”
“Grant us the …”
“Something that sounds like soup ladle …”
Downright spooky, the solemn silence with which they had come. And for a weird moment, I thought they were there for me. This was the moment of my deliverance – and wouldn’t you know it would be in Kennedy Park? I was grateful I had showered and put on fresh underwear earlier in the day.
But, no. The praying ones had come from the revival tent just up the hill. They had learned that a man had been stricken and they must have felt it was done just so that they could raise him up. Most of them looked wonder-struck as they prayed. A small boy in an immaculate suit inched over to my side.
“What happened?” he asked.
But an older man in an older suit hushed the curious lad at once.
“Quiet,” he said. “We do not ask questions.”
The evangelist himself approached the downed man and made to kneel.
“May I pray for him?”
“Pray over there,” one of the medics said. “We need this area.”
And the landscape around the dying man remained strangely quiet. Park denizens were hushed as they watched. The enraptured who had come from the tent prayed only in whispers and murmurs that were lost as soon as they were born.
After a time, the downed man was lifted onto a gurney and slid into an ambulance while cops and medics swept in behind him. Onlookers moved away. The praying ones finished their invocations and turned, with remarkable synchronicity, back toward the giant tent.
I wandered off too, chilled by the unexpected sight of five dozen faithful come to administer saving prayers or last rites. I shook it off, walked away and thought little about it the rest of the night. Then I ran into a cop at another scene, with guns and bats and fire.
“You know, they thought that dude in the park was dead,” he said.
“Maybe. But when they got him back to the hospital and worked on him a bit longer, they got a pulse. Last I heard, he’s gonna make it.”
Ah, good for him, whether it was a defibrillator or the extra-strength prayer that brought him around. I only hope the brother had the good sense to put on fresh underwear earlier in the day.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. His blog can be found at www.marklaflamme.com/blog.