July 2005A week working at the Lighthouse for the Blind in
South Seattle and already a life lesson. Not that meeting the people there hasn’t been one, what I had experienced today definitely made a great impact on me as a Deafblind person and as an employee of the nation’s largest DeafBlind service.
Let me begin by telling you about this hearing  and blind man, Bob. He’s worked at the Lighthouse assembly plant located in the basement, working in different units, producing materials for Boeing aircraft and for the
United States military stationed around the world. For 35 years, he’d made friends with his deaf and blind employees, learned a bit fingerspelling so he could get by with communicating with them and regardless of his blindness, he was touted a great worker and was almost flawless in his production tasks.
I met Bob at the bus stop last week when I was waiting for one to approach so I could get home after a long day at work. I mistook Bob for an elderly deaf and blind guy, Ken, who worked at the assembly plant, too. At first, Bob spoke to me and I tapped his hand as if to alert him I was Deaf. He ahhed and fingerspelled his name – B-O-B and i ‘wrote’ on his palm, saying that I thought he was Ken. He laughed and said he’s been often mistaken for his pal and that he knew Ken for as long as he worked at the Lighthouse. He smiled, understood that we were at odd’s end, for he was hearing and blind, wasn’t an expert on tactile and I was mute and Deaf…. and looked away, turned his ear to the busy street listening for that familiar honk of the bus horn.This morning I was informed of Bob’s sudden, tragic and shocking death. One of my co-workers, my boss to be exact, was swamped on the phone and she cautioned me that there was an emergency at the Lighthouse and that a man had died on the weekend, he had worked for the assembly plant. His co-workers had to be informed and the emergency alert system had to be in effect.On-call interpreters and Lighthouse staff that endowed signing skills were immediately herded down to the basement, they were to collect several assembly area supervisors and broke the news that Bob had died over the weekend and that the DeafBlind workers were to be informed before the HearingBlind workers . That was because they had lessons that were learned during the aftermath of the September 9, 2001 attacks and the DeafBlind people were anguished to learn they were the very last ones to learn about the terrible tragedy.As the story of Bob’s death unfolded, I was on hand to witness the story being explained through tactile or limited areas of signing by the staff and the interpreters and the shock, the anguish, the sorrow forming sad expressions on the workers’ faces. For good reason, the story of Bob and how he met his maker was rather unsettling and thought provoking for me as well as many others, even the sighted people there.Bob, who is developmentally disabled himself, as well as hearing and blind, went with a couple of like-minded, sighted DD friends to a game at the Seattle Mariners Stadium. After the game, he walked with his friends to cross the train tracks in front of the stadium to board the bus stop across the tracks. The caution bars went down, alerting the people there was a train coming, so they patiently waited… until the train left, the entourage slipped under the bars to walk over and Bob followed, instead of going under the bars he walked around the poles. The bars hadn’t yet gone up, and the friends scurried to arrive to the sidewalk while Bob, at his old age, hobbled with his cane across the train tracks…. and another incoming train hit him, dragged him for some bit before it stopped. Horrified, his friends called an ambulance and once at the hospital, the doctors confirmed his passing. Death by a train.My heart wrenched, for the story was so sad and alarming. The staff were worried about the workers for a good reason: once they found out, they would likely isolate themselves at home and forfeit their independence for they would be panicked that somewhat the fate of Bob would happen to them, too. It has been on occassion that the DeafBlind/Blind community has experienced tragedy like this, several blind people are hit by cars in spans of time and some survive, some are killed. The staff were on hand to provide support and coax others into not writhing away into the darkness of their homes just because things like this happen to blind people.That experience has struck me where my worries lie, I worry that such a fate like this would happen to me someday when I become fully blind. I’m too independent and I hesitate to ask for guidance, for my stubborness and mindset tells me I can do this on my own. Sometimes before I cross the street, I lrantically look around, hoping that I caught every car that passed, that there were no hidden speeding cars that would make a sudden turn. I always had a lingering fear that I would meet my maker not by old age but in a tragic accident. In time, I have accepted Death, and I am even in the process of writing a living will. Being Deaf and Blind combined, there is more danger lurking around, yet it makes me more braver to face the unexpected out there and walk on the concrete of this dangerous, evolving world we all live in. One thing I want to say is that I hope my friends, my family and my guardian angel will be holding my hand when I cross the street, when I cross the train tracks and continue on the journey of my life when I see nothing but darkness, hear nothing but silence. I’ll feel their hands, I’ll feel my strength and I’ll know my determination from the lessons I learn and my efforts to move on.I know Bob is happy where he is now, I have a feeling he doesn’t see the darkness anymore. 

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2 Responses to Bob

  1. I’m so sorry this happened 😦

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