The Beacon Journal has been writing about civility for almost a year and most of the stories have been about people in conflict and turmoil. This week we are writing about people who faced problems and found civil solutions.
It’s a tense moment when Don Wilson encounters people going to work in the Planned Parenthood parking lot on Akron’s West Exchange Street.
He stands on the sidewalk maybe twice a week carrying a sign excoriating abortion as workers and clients park and go into the building.
For women showing up for pre-natal care he says he has kind words.
“I say, ‘Thank you for being a mom because we need you, we need your baby,’ ” he said. But he also carries a sign that says: “Too Many Black Babies Aborted.”
He says his relationship with the nurses and others who work at the clinic are more strained.
“They have a policy of calling out, hooting and hollering,” he said. “They have sort of a monetary interest, maybe that’s why they do it. They are calling out like, ‘Go home!’ or any kind of atrocious language to discourage us from being there.”
But one day he needed their help and they came through.
Wilson is a man of causes. He opposes abortion. He loves trees, especially the ones that give him shade on that sidewalk. He also is a critic of traffic patterns in that neighborhood.
He says he’s seen many fender benders in front of the Planned Parenthood site. A few times they hit and killed the trees he loves.
But one accident stands out.
The one-way street is four lanes wide and only the left-most lane is for turning into the clinic. Sometimes drivers try to turn from an inner lane.
“They are often younger drivers, inexperienced drivers and if they get the inclination to turn in they will do it,” he said.
This time was different. He was standing with his sign along with another protester, a woman who said through Wilson she didn’t want to be identified. A pickup truck and another vehicle collided.
“[The other protester] was actually sitting in a canvas chair and this happened so fast … she wasn’t able to get out of the way,” he said. “A big pickup truck was driving up and the guy was doing his best to stop and she got hit and flung.”
She had a broken vertebrae.
“It could have been worse but by the grace of God,” Wilson said.
The Planned Parenthood employees sprung into action.
Someone called 911. Nurses came out and helped the woman avoid shock until an ambulance could arrive. One of the Planned Parenthood employees walked down the street to inform the victim’s husband who was visiting another business.
For a moment, people with profound disagreements were united.
“Our distinctions about pro life or pro abortion were dropped,” Wilson said.
The woman was taken to the hospital where she received flowers sent by the clinic’s director.
Planned Parenthood confirmed Wilson’s report through spokesperson Celeste Ribbons.
“We helped her the way we would anyone,” Ribbons said.
She also confirmed that the clinic, like Wilson, is working to convince the city to improve traffic flow where, according to Wilson, an accident happens almost once a month.
He said the city told him a “work order” has been made but he doesn’t know what the effort will be.
Meanwhile he said the joint efforts after the accident were an example of the “common humanity” of all involved.
“That was a good example of that,” he said. “We all had a normal moment there.”
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.