The avenue is busy, but no more so than usual. The air is cool and fresh. You wait to cross the avenue as cars roll past, the lit red hand holding you in place. It’s a road that you’ve crossed tens of thousands of times in your life, maybe more. When you cross Jamaica Avenue, you expect to reach the other side safely.
The light changes, you look both ways and you start to cross. Without warning, you realize something is wrong. A vehicle just went through the red light and it’s right on top of you. It’s not stopping. When the lights are red on Jamaica Avenue, you expect the cars to stop.
Except this time it didn’t stop and a good man’s life was cut short; a man who worked many years, who was enjoying retirement, who was simply out for a walk. His name was John Eberling, a resident of Woodhaven, and the rest of his years were stolen away from him in the blink of an eye on Jamaica Avenue last week.
The driver was detained at the scene. Police administered a breathalyzer test and, as a result, he was charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. One life taken and so many lives ruined as the result of one massive act of callous stupidity. One that hits the residents of Woodhaven hard as it could have been any one of us.
Here’s a little thought experiment. Read one of the news clippings about this tragedy, but substitute your own name for Mr. Eberling’s; or your husband or wife’s name. In the following sentence, insert the name of a loved one:
“A boozed-up driver struck and killed a Queens resident Wednesday. Police said that (name) was mowed down by a maroon Nissan Pathfinder near Jamaica Ave. and 80th St. in Woodhaven about 4:30 pm.”
You see, it could have been any one of us. We cross Jamaica Avenue all the time, all of us. Four-thirty in the afternoon is the middle of the day, when you expect to be safe, when crossing Jamaica Avenue should be as dangerous as getting a haircut.
We’ve all gone shopping in that area at that time of day. We’ve crossed the street to go to Scaturro’s or to Duane Reade or to the bank or the post office. It could just as easily have been me or my wife or anyone reading this whose life was ended that day. We were lucky. Mr. Eberling was not.
I wish there was a lesson for us to take away from this. Should we take extra precautions when crossing the avenue? I presume you are already cautious, just like Mr. Eberling was. What kind of changes can we ask for Jamaica Avenue? More lighting? More police? It was the middle of the day. Four police cars could have been sitting at 80th Street and Jamaica and it wouldn’t have changed a thing.
What we can do is ask for greater punishment for those who operate vehicles while impaired. We will keep on top of this case and make sure that the office of the Queens District Attorney knows we are watching. We will call for the driver to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Most of us did not know Mr. Eberling personally, but he was one of us. And each of us in this community must come together and treat this case as if it were one of our own family members, a loved one, that was carelessly struck down in our midst. After all, it very well could have been.