I was targeted by a sniper, while riding on a Greyhound bus in Cleveland, on May 31, 2009, at about 2:15 AM.
I was very lucky to avoid any serious physical injuries.
I was sitting next to window, in the second row, and as you can see from the photo, the sniper's bullet just missed my head!
Why Was I On A Greyhound Bus In Cleveland At 2:15 AM?
To watch a dog.
My buddy in New York, was going on vacation, and needed someone who knew his dog, to watch her for a few days. He wanted to send me a plane ticket, but I volunteered to take the Greyhound bus, to keep his expenses down.
Greyhound offers excellent Go Anywhere discounts for advanced purchases. The 1500 mile round trip, from Lexington, Kentucky, to New York City, is only $131.
Preparing For Greyhound
I packed a dozen Odwalla Sweet & Salty Almond Bars, and several bottles of water, to avoid anything served, or sold, along the way. Since I could not avoid touching anything along the way, I had several small bottles of Purell, for peace of mind.
Since I was forced to rest my head upon a porous fabric seat, I also packed my favorite blue “hoodie” — or hooded sweatshirt, to shelter my face, from the drool and spit of my seat's previous occupants, as well as the back of my head, from the coughs and sneezes of the passengers behind me.
I carried two bags on my right shoulder. One contained clothing which I stowed above the seat. The second bag, which I kept under my seat, held my laptop, camera, snacks, and all-important paperback novels.
I departed Lexington, at 4:50 PM, and after stops in Cincinnati, and Columbus, arrived in Cleveland about 10 PM, for a 2:15 AM departure. I expected to arrive in Manhattan, nine hours later.
I prefer to sit in the front of the bus, so instead of watching CNN, which is now shown in all Greyhound terminals, I waited at the front of the departure line, reading an Ed McBain novel.
How I Was Shot On Greyhound
I boarded the bus, and was pleased to sit in my (formerly) favorite seat — the second row window seat on the driver's side. This seat provides me with a clear view of the driver, so I can watch them while they drive, and occasionally dial numbers on their cell phones. Almost all Greyhound drivers carry on nearly-endless telephone conversations while driving.
I was bleary by the time we departed, and for some reason, I wanted to see the time. Unfortunately, the light on my watch broke a few days before the trip, so I sat up, and pressed the button, for the overhead light — and BANG! a sniper aimed for the light, and I was covered in shattered glass.
The sniper had to waiting for the bus, because it was a great shot, at a moving target. If the bus driver had been traveling slightly slower, or I had been leaning forward, I would have been hit directly in the face.
I was so tired, that I did not realize what happened, but the other passengers started screaming, and the driver stopped the bus.
My Cleveland Nightmare Begins
My face was hot, where it had been struck by glass fragments, and I did not want to bend my right wrist, because it felt like there was glass embedded in it.
I did not notice, but I had also sprayed blood, on a passenger across the aisle. He rushed over to me, screaming:
“Do you have AIDS?”
I was really tired and did not want to wait another 12 hours for the next bus. However, I was nervous about the pieces of glass in my wrist, so I accepted the driver's offer, of an ambulance ride to be checked out.
I deposited my bags on the side of the road, and walked around to look at the bus.
After looking at the entry hole (above) which was right near my head, and looking at the exit hole (below) near the hysterical fellow's head, I became fairly hysterical too.
How Would You Feel?
Nice hole, eh? Bullet entered second row on driver's side, and exited (shown here) third row, on other side of bus. I am amazed that there were no serious injuries.
With each passing second, I kept thinking how close I came to being seriously injured, and became more excited. Plus, I have a traumatic brain injury, which means I have poor impulse control, and I can get very excited, without realizing it.
But I was not worried, because I was sure I would calm down, as soon as the glass was removed from my face and wrist.
Unfortunately, I did not realize that I was being transported to St. Vincent Charity Hospital, which is the worst hospital I have ever had the misfortune of entering.
Stay Away From St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland
St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland did not help me.
St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland did not even try to help me. I was not able to be treated, because, at 3:30 A.M., the triage person, who had to give me a release to sign, was occupied, with a personal telephone call.
There were no patients in the waiting room, and the log I signed, showed no admissions for the previous two hours. I met a physician, who informed me that he would treat me as soon as the triage person got off the phone, and handed me a release to sign.
I was extremely excited, but the situation seemed hopeless, so I tried counting to 300, feeling that I would certainly be treated within five minutes.
After five minutes, I looked at the Doc, who was now leaning in the doorway, with his arms crossed, and wondered why he did not interrupt the insolent clerk. I told him that I had a TBI at least ten times, and that I was feeling faint. When he replied that he had to wait for the clerk, I decided to take matters in my own hands.
I stood up, said I felt faint, and pretended to faint. I figured that would be enough for the triage person to say, “Can you hold on for a minute? There's a fellow here who just got shot on the bus, and I ought to hand him a release so he can be treated.”
Well, I got part of it right. Triage clerk moved her telephone, a few inches from her ear. Unfortunately, instead of handing me a release, she yelled, “SECURITY!”
Two large fellows entered, and, while still holding her telephone, she commanded, “Get him out of here!” One fellow grabbed my arms, the other my legs, and they carried me out of the hospital, and deposited me on a patch of grass by the sidewalk. They told me that I was not allowed on the hospital grounds.
I smiled at one guard, and asked him to come closer so I could read his name tag. Instead, he quickly removed the tag, and hurried back inside.
Every single person I encountered in St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland, should be banned from ever working in a hospital again!
This includes the impotent physician, who was too scared, to order his highly inappropriate triage clerk, to get off the phone.
Semi-Hysterical, Semi-Hurt, and Completely Helpless in Cleveland
I gathered my belongings, including my knee brace, which also had embedded glass, so I could not wear it. I figured that I could just walk around the corner, to the main entrance of the most uncharitable St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland, and call 911. It was about 4 AM, and while there was no need to rush to get another bus, I did not want to wander around Cleveland, wounded, hysterical, and carrying two bags.
I also wanted to have the pieces of glass removed from my wrist. Plus, my face was hot. It was not bleeding, but I wanted to look at it in a mirror, ASAP.
I know it is hard to believe, but the rest of the employees of St. Vincent Charity Hospital, that I met on this miserable night, were even more useless.
I stopped carrying a cell phone after my dear friend, and companion, Ellen, passed away in 2004. So I decided to look for a public telephone, at St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland, to call 911. I just wanted to ask someone, who was not tied up with a personal telephone call, to be taken to another hospital, where my wounds might be treated.
After all, I was involved in a shooting incident — doesn't it seem logical that someone would be interested?
St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland Rewrites Hippocratic Oath
As I approached the main entrance of St. Vincent Charity Hospital, I was met by a different security officer, who informed me that he would not call 911 for me, and I was forbidden to use the public telephones in the lobby. Instead, he pointed to a bus, which was passing by on the next block, and said:
“That bus runs every 15 minutes. If you take it to the last stop, you will find Police and pay phones.”
There was a bench a few feet from the entrance, and he agreed to let me sit there until I had a plan. So I sat on the bench, and removed the glass from my brace pads. Unfortunately, I realized that a pad was missing when I tried to put it on. I was not thrilled about returning to the place that just threw me out, but I wanted to wear my brace. I figured the worst that could happen, was that the most uncharitable St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland, would call the Police. But I was certain that any Cleveland Police Officer, would be more helpful than the inept staff of St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland.
I was gathering my resolve, when what appeared to be a physician, wearing greens, with a stethoscope around his neck, came bounding cheerfully out of the building. I said, “Excuse me?” — showed him my wrist and face, and asked if he could call 911, so I could be treated at another hospital. He replied:
“I'm sorry, but I am not allowed to help you if you have been thrown out of this hospital. Since you're not from Cleveland, you should know that this is not a good neighborhood, and you should sit on that bench until daylight.”
Seconds after he left, I asked a female employee, who seemed to be going to work, to please call 911, but she ignored me.
I gathered my belongings, and headed back to ER for my missing pad.
I turned the corner, wondering how I could get past the security guards, to retrieve my brace pad, when I saw a beautiful sight: an ambulance, with two Cleveland EMS employees, and no patients.
I showed them my face and wrist, and explained why I was on the street talking to them, instead of being treated at the most uncharitable St. Vincent Charity Hospital of Cleveland.
After one fellow, went inside for my brace pad, which I eventually found in a pocket, they transported me to a wonderful hospital, Cleveland Clinic.
Someone, forget who, told me that the employees at St. Vincent Charity Hospital, were disgruntled, because the hospital was being closed.
I hope it is closed soon, to prevent others, from being abused by its bitter employees.
FYI: This photo of my arm was taken several days after the incident.
Cleveland Clinic Is A Great Hospital
Seconds after my arrival at Cleveland Clinic, I was wheeled into an examination room, and was finally able to relax. I was x-rayed, and my wound was cleaned and bandaged, within an hour.
After being treated, I was fed, and allowed to use a telephone. It was about 6 AM, and I asked if I could rest awhile, and also speak to a Social Worker. I was told that a Social Worker would see me after 7 AM, and that I was in no danger of being thrown out.
I was even given a second breakfast to help me recover sooner.
After my second turkey sandwich, and vanilla pudding, I napped until Rosemary Truchanowicz arrived. Ms. Truchanowicz could not have been more helpful.
My only annoyance at Cleveland Clinic, came when Ms. Truchanowicz asked me to report the incident to Police. I had just started a short story by Elmore Leonard, when a heavily armed fellow, with far too many objects on his belt, wearing a Cleveland Clinic uniform, entered my room a few minutes later.
I cannot recall the last time I spoke to a policeman, and I was obviously still excited from the incident, so I put down the paperback, got up and started to move toward him. He said:
“Stop right there! I will shoot you if you advance toward me!”
I said, “This interview is over if you threaten me again.” He replied:
“If you do not cooperate with me, I will arrest you.”
I walked by him, and in my best Brooklyn voice shouted:
“Please remove this man from my room, because he has threatened me twice!“
Luckily, my room was located next to Nurse's station, where the talented Ms. Truchanowicz was speaking on a telephone. Unlike the triage person at St. Vincent Charity Hospital, she was off the phone in a second, and the Policeman was removed.
I offered to sign a release to let the Police see my medical record, but I have since learned that I am supposed to report the incident myself. I will report it later — after this article has been published.
Ms. Truchanowicz called Greyhound, got my ticket refunded, and obtained a free ticket back to Lexington for me. Additionally, she gave me a pre-paid taxi ride back to Greyhound terminal, and $10 in cash, to keep me going until my 11 PM departure from Cleveland.
A nurse also gave extra gauze, tape, and Bacitracin, to keep my wound dressed, until I got home.
I had a very nice cab driver, who gave me directions to the main branch of Cleveland Public Library, before returning me to Greyhound Bus Terminal.
I Had Enough Of Cleveland!
Greyhound employees tried their hardest to be nice to me when I returned.
My ticket was exchanged in seconds, and I was told that Station Manager wanted to meet me. I was still in shock, and do not recall what he said. However, another fellow, who worked in office, was very nice. He escorted me to package room, where two pleasant young ladies, offered to watch my two bags, until 9 PM.
Although I had been awake for 36 hours, I felt much better after I was relieved of my luggage. I decided to buy a Cleveland Plain Dealer, and after a 10 block trip, in a heavy rain, I returned to the terminal, with a wet newspaper.
I found a “Metropolitan Editor” listed on masthead, and called her to discuss shooting. Unfortunately, her mailbox was full, and the number I was transferred to, would not accept messages either. Thankfully, Plain Dealer is located on same avenue as library, so I decided to walk over. It was about a mile round trip.
A very pleasant receptionist, wearing incongruous security guard uniform, listened to my tale of woe, and asked me to remain seated. A few minutes later, Donna Miller, a Plain Dealer reporter appeared, and I repeated my semi-hysterical rant to her.
Ms. Miller updated Gunman Shatters Greyhound Bus, and quoted me:
“I'll never come to Cleveland again!”
I do not think that I will ever ride Greyhound again either.
When I returned to pickup my two bags, the package room was not occupied, and anyone could have picked them up.
Life In Cleveland
Someone (forget who) told me that there had been fifty Greyhound shootings in Cleveland. This makes sense, because the person who shot me, made a great shot — and practice makes perfect.
One other bizarre thing I learned about Cleveland, was that most of their public telephones were removed due to repeated vandalizations. Perhaps all of the remaining telephones, were located at the last stop of the bus, that the St. Vincent security guard advised me to take, because I did not see any in the street.
Getting Over It
I forced myself to sit in the same seat for the ride home. I arrived in Lexington about noon, and went for a walk with my buddy Larry, who also photographed my wounds, over the next two days. I slept for 21 of the next 24 hours, and most of the following day too.
But I was practically gleeful, during my waking hours, because I kept thinking about how close I came to being seriously injured. I even appreciate Lexington more now. I happen to live in a very nice neighborhood!
Oh, and I started smoking again!