As the scope of the Boxing Day blizzard became apparent and word of the 911 backlog started to spread— it hit 1,300 at its peak— we knew there would be casualties. But that doesn't make it ok. As you read the stories of babies dying in lobbies hours after help was called and elderly mothers dying because it was impossible to reach 911 it is hard not to become furious that the city—which likes to boast about its large-scale tabletop simulations—did not have a better plan to keep emergency vehicles moving swiftly.
This isn't the fault of the city's emergency workers, they were doing their job and should be commended. In fact, one of the silver linings of these stories is just how heroic and devoted our city's emergency crews are (not to mention the many good samaritans who've been doing their part too). This is a matter of city authorities not recognizing the severity of the storm and responding appropriately to make sure emergency vehicles could react effectively. And that is unacceptable.
More snow woe stories are certainly, sadly, still coming but here are some of the more upsetting ones:
• A 75-year-old Queens mother woke up Monday unable to breathe and alerted her daughter, who tried to call 911. She could not get through for 50 minutes. A neighbor administered CPR but EMS was unable to arrive for another 45 minutes—and they still had to walk to her house.
Talking to reporters yesterday the daughter said: "Mayor Bloomberg you can't bring my mother back. And that's all I really want. I've been with her for 41 years. I miss her, she's my life. The snow will melt, but this will never fade from my memory ever."
• A 63-year-old man in Bay Ridge died of a heart attack Monday morning after it took paramedics three-and-a-half hours to arrive. "They made him die. They could have saved him," the victim's brother-in-law told the Journal. "They worked at him, but it was too late. He was already blue." And to add to the pain, it took another 28 hours for a city medical examiner to pick up the body, which had been resting in a bag on a bed.
• Another woman in Sunset Park spent more than 24 hours waiting for help removing her late-father's body. She told the News, "this is New York City, and I'm a New Yorker, and this is not the first storm we've ever had. Somebody dropped the ball ... big-time."
• Hands down the most upsetting story so far is that of a 22-year-old pregnant woman in Crown Heights. As she started contractions the woman began walking from her home to Interfaith Medical Center on Monday morning but couldn't make it. She stopped in a building lobby at 97 Brooklyn Avenue and 911 was called at 8:30 a.m.. Because the birth seemed a bit off she was listed as nonemergency status. But by 4:30 p.m. she had started crowning and 911 was called again. Around 5:20 p.m. police arrived (by foot since driving was impossible) and found the woman attempting to leave and walk to the hospital again. She was brought back inside and the baby was delivered—but it wasn't breathing and despite the efforts of police and neighbors the baby was lost.
The woman's mother, who didn't know about the pregnancy before since the woman and her boyfriend planned to put it up for adoption, was livid when she spoke to the News: "The mayor was spouting nonsense to say Crown Heights was plowed. It wasn't. No one could get to her ... any other day she would have gotten to a hospital."
At yesterday's press conference Bloomberg was asked if he regretted the city's response and he retorted "I regret everything in the world." We bet.