The NCAA men’s basketball Final four weekend in New Orleans has come to an end. The weekend was full of fun festivities and traditional New Orleans offerings. The games offered rematches of big regular season matches and a showdown in perhaps the biggest rivalry college basketball has. Enjoy my compilation of the video footage I shot during my trip to the Final Four 2012.
The time was 6:47PM. I knew that, because I had just checked my cellphone to see how long my roommate, Andy Ke, and I had to get to the stadium for the big game. We squeeze in together with half a dozen other people under neath a small canopy to try to avoid the heavy rain. The canopy is at the entrance of Mother’s Restaurant, a famous New Orleans creole restaurant where we had just had bread pudding.
Andy and I were waiting for a break in the rain while the others with us waved for taxis with no luck. Everyone shouted between passing taxis about who was going to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship, but I barely hear them over the downpour. I cannot make out details in the heavy rain and lightning flashes. That’s why I heard it before I saw it right in front of me: A loud thump followed by the screeching tires.
Twenty feet away, directly in front of me, a red taxi had screeched to a stop after running into a woman who was in the street. The thump was the sound of its bumper slamming into a woman’s knees. Now focused, I saw the rest of the horrific scene. A second thump, and her hips hit the hood of the cab. A third as her head swung down into the windshield. Now she was airborne, nearly flip over the roof, but instead falling onto the hood and rolling off its side.
The accident couldn’t have lasted more than three seconds, but in the moment, time stopped. Every detail was burned into my mind. The woman’s red umbrella floating into the air from her hand. Her brown hair whipping in the wind as her body flipped over the hood of the cab. The sudden silence that fell on the crowd I was in. It wasn’t until the woman hit the street and screamed that time seemed to return to normal, and everyone realized what had happened.
“Oh shit!” Andy shouted.
“Someone call 911, quick!” a woman cried.
Immediately, I pull out my phone and dial 911. A young man from across the street ran over to the accident while I put the phone up to my ear. I don’t even remember it ringing a single time before the operator answered.
“This is 911 emergency dispatch,” a woman says. She is barely audible over the pouring rain. “What is the nature of your emergency.”
“We’ve just witnessed an accident!” I shouted into my phone, making sure she can hear me over the rain.
“Okay, sir. Where are you right now?” she asked.
It takes me a second to understand what she’s asking. I look up to the corner of where we’re perched under the canopy, but can’t read the names through the rain. I pushed out of the small crowd to the corner and looked up at the signs.
“We’re at the corner of Poydras and uh… To… Choo… Choopeetwas,” I shouted. “I think!” I sounded out the word as best I could, but Tchupitoulas wasn’t a familiar name to me. “I can’t pronounce it!” I shouted quickly. “We’re right outside of Mother’s Restaurant down town!”
As I was trying to explain my location, I saw the taxi creeping forward. Several people leapt out in front of it, screaming, “She’ll die if you move!”
“Okay sir, is this where the accident happened?” the operator asked calmly.
“Yes!” I said. I was still watching the people in front of the taxi as I answered.
“Can you explain what happened?” she asked.
“Yes, the taxi hit a pedestrian! She’s going to need an ambulance!” I answered plainly. My mind couldn’t think to give any more details at the time.
“Okay sir, an ambulance has been dispatched. What’s the number of the phone you’re calling from?”
I quickly give her my number, and she repeats it. After assuring me help was on the way, I run out to the woman, who’s already surrounded by four people.
“I’ve called 911, and an ambulance is on the way!” I shouted.
“Okay!” a young man replied. I can barely recognize him as the first person that ran out to the accident while I dialed 911.
By now, seven people huddled around the woman lying on the street. Three of them held umbrellas over her to protect her from the rain. A woman who said she was a nurse knelt by the woman talking to her, keeping her conscious. The young man who had arrived first was standing with the taxi driver at a distance, giving everyone space. I was the last person there.
With my part done, I returned to the canopy. A woman who worked at the restaurant was peaking through a crack in the door she had opened and asked if the woman was okay.
“Yes, she’s talking,” a woman answered. “I was just over there, but she refused to let me help her. I used to be a nurse,” she explained. “Thankfully, the woman behind me is a nurse, and she’s there right now.”
“Did someone call 911?” the woman inside asked.
“Yeah, an ambulance is on the way,” I answered.
I turned back to the accident scene. I was drenched. I hadn’t noticed while I was out there, but now that I had time to think, I could feel how cold my arms and legs were underneath my wet clothing.
In silence, we waited. We all watched the group standing around the woman as time ticked by. Finally, I could hear sirens, and all of us looked around to see where they were coming from.
Police officers on motorcycles rode into the intersection and stopped traffic. A few rode ahead tailed by a line of private buses with tinted windows. My roommate pointed – those are probably the players on their way to the stadium, he said
As the rest of the cops began to move after the buses, I waved frantically and shouted for them to stop. One policeman noticed the stationary taxi and the group of people and pulled over. After an exchange with one of the people, he pulled out his radio and spoke into it briefly before moving his bike back a few feet to make sure vehicles didn’t get too close.
A moment later, more sirens blared from down the street. I recognized them as those of a fire truck. The fire truck turned onto our street and stopped right by the accident. Two firefighters jumped down with first aid kits and tended to the woman. By this time, even more sirens were coming closer, and I could make out the white shape of an ambulance two blocks away. When it arrived, it blocked our view of what was happening. At that moment, the rain let up and the air cleared. With the ambulance now here, we decided it was time to go. My roommate and I took one last look back before steeling ourselves and running into the rain. I checked my cell phone. It was now 6:57PM. That entire event had lasted only ten minutes, but it felt like an hour or longer.
The adrenaline wore off as we ran, but the memories did not. Hours later, while we drove back to Louisville, I thought back to the accident. In all that time, I had never gotten the woman’s name. It was now 4AM, and I decided to see if there was news of the accident.
I punched ‘Picayune Times’ into my cellphone’s web browser and reached the New Orleans’ newspaper website. After an hour of scouring, I found nothing. There was news of several shootings, a possible rape, and another car accident involving a cyclist on an Italian team. There was nothing about a woman hit by a taxi downtown.
After another thirty minutes of digging, I had exhausted every section. Felling cold and anxious, I opened the obituaries page. There were dozens, but only a handful from Monday. None of them made any mention of the person being hit by a car.
The chill in my chest fizzled away. I let out a sigh and relaxed slightly. I could only conclude that the woman was still alive. With no other paths open for me to search out news about her, I set my cellphone down. I sat back for the rest of the drive home, never fully letting go of what had happened. A tragedy had happened at 6:47PM on Monday, April 2nd in New Orleans, but no one else would ever know besides the people who were there. And now you.
My thoughts following the NCAA men’s basketball championship game. This game was never as close or exciting as Louisville v Kentucky, and the Big Blue seemed to easily win the title. The only thing Kansas did exceptionally well was containing Anthony Davis, who only had a single basket. They did not, however, have an answer for his defensive presence, and couldn’t answer when Kentucky got things rolling.
After the madness of the Final Four Semis, it was nice to spend a day experiencing New Orleans. The city is a very unique place with its own culture. The people are very friendly. Not once did I come across someone rude. Everyone was happy to give directions, tips on restuarants, or the best places to get NOLA’s famous dishes. Everything, even popular chains, like McDonalds have large, flashy front faces to try to grab attention, making for a very beautiful down town.
During the day, I experienced perfect weather in the low 80s. There were a lot of people already walking along the main street, Canal St., as well as the famous Bourbon street that connects Canal to Armstrong Park.
Bourbon street was already bustling with activity in the early afternoon. People were out enjoying the many drinks that have made New Orleans popular, like the jester and hand grenade. Bars shouted out specials, but for the most part, things were still pretty laid back. No one was there to party so much as to enjoy the festivities.
Once Bourbon street emptied into Armstrong Park, a couple parties for KU and U of K were playing music and getting their crowds to cheer. These were actually smaller parties than the official ones going on back near the stadium, but they still had a couple hundred people each.
At night, things were much wilder. There were a lot more people filling up Bourbon street, and all of them were celebrating their teams winning out in the streets, rather than remaining in the bars. People on the second floor balconies were dropping down beads and calling out team chants to passing fans. This was the New Orleans I had heard about and seen on TV many times.
I don’t think there’s any way to describe what this particular section of New Orleans is like. Canal Street is a lot like the main down town streets of San Fransisco, complete with trolleys running down the middle. Bourbon street is a fairly quiet stretch of bars and gift shops with a mixture of old architecture. Street performers and artists litter this stretch and the park at the end during daylight, but the night is owned by music performers. At night, Bourbon street is like a ten block long 4th Street Live with ten times the energy. Everyone and everything is lively and celebrating life.
My thoughts on an amazing game and an unfortunate end to the Cardinals’ season.
I was very impressed with how Louisville played. No one can ever say they lost because of a lack of effort. Everyone played their hearts out and kept us in the game despite several double digit leads. Peyton Siva did a good job of pushing the pace and cutting inside. His three to tie it at 49 was the loudest moment of the night.
The cats were too much though. Their inside game with Anthony Davis made scoring inside very difficult, and we never got hot outside to offset that on offense. The game was mostly a tough battle inside. We hung in there until about five minutes remaining against the Titan of college basketball. The Cards never backed down, and as a U of L student, I’m proud of them.
A highlight reel cut mere hours after the game Saturday night using video I shot from my seat. This game was amazing to see in person. The atmosphere was unbelievable, and both teams played hard and provided plenty of excitement. In the end, Louisville’s heart couldn’t quite keep pace with Kentucky’s talent. Thanks to the players and coaches for giving us a great season!
My thoughts on the game will be posted soon.