The death of Curtis Mitchell, the Hazelwood man who waited 30 hours for an ambulance that never came ("Hazelwood Man Dies After 10 Calls to 911 Over 2 Days," Feb. 17), surely represents a failure of our public works and emergency response systems, but this tragedy also suggests that something more fundamental to who we are as a city, a country and a people is profoundly broken.
As I think of Mr. Mitchell and his girlfriend waiting through those frantic hours as his pain and her anxiety increased, I wonder why no neighbors could be found to move him to where an ambulance could rescue him, apparently only a short distance away.
That the story did not end this way is troubling. It suggests to me that the fabric that holds any community, any country, together has frayed to the point that we sometimes no longer recognize its existence. It should be the most natural thing in the world to reach out to our neighbors and to respond with help when asked, but that is clearly not the case.
Conservatives say we have become so infantilized by a nanny state that we can no longer act, individually or together, on our own behalf, relying on the government to do for us what we can better do ourselves. Perhaps they have a point. Liberals say we have become so in thrall to the ethic of individualism and the notion of every-man-for-himself that the concepts of community and society have become dirty words -- trojan horses for those familiar bogeymen: communism and socialism. Perhaps they have a point.
We have to take a hard look at the bureaucracies that failed to help Curtis Mitchell in his final, desperate hours, but as we do that, we should take a hard look at ourselves, too.