Washington Square Park Massacre

by

01/19/2008

Washington Square Park, New York, NY 10012

Neighborhood: West Village

It was the first perfect day of spring; the air silky with warmth. People, like the daffodils, were blooming all over Washington Square Park: Bicyclists, street musicians, bag-lunchers, in-line skaters, mothers with strollers. Those who were just standing around, others who were walking—they flew into the air like handkerchiefs tossed by the breeze when the car hit them.

I was coming home from a bookstore where I’d just been reading about a character from Irish mythology–Noisi, Deirdre’s husband. He was said to have had hair like a raven, skin white as snow and cheeks red as blood. An image of Noisi in my mind’s eye, I started following a Greenwich Village tour group I didn’t pay for. I walked with the group for a few minutes, until the leader looked at me with such malice I thought I’d better leave.

I headed down MacDougal St. As I started crossing through the park, a boy rushed up to me, screaming, “Some motherfucker drove their car through the park!” Scowling, he ran toward the middle of the park where the car had stopped when it hit the fountain.

An enormous mob had formed around the car, a gray clunker. They lifted the car off the ground, and then dropped it back down. They tore an old woman in a long beige raincoat from the car and started beating her. I panicked, thinking maybe my boyfriend had been hit. He often walked through the park; we lived just a block away. I started running, scanning the faces of the wounded and the dead to see if he was among them.

I saw a lot of things I wished I hadn’t–people on park benches when the car hit contorted into unbelievable shapes, smashed into the seats, some even wrapped around them like ribbons. One person was pierced through the waist by a bench. Others lay bleeding on the ground. I didn’t find my boyfriend anywhere and was afraid of being crushed by the mob. I kept running until I came to the park’s edge where I saw a face that made me stop. It belonged to a teenager. He looked just as I imagined Noisi might have: He had soft, wind-blown dark hair. A bright red blush dusted his young white cheeks. The problem was he lay on the ground, his head turned the wrong way so that his face looked over his back. His legs were wrapped around his torso. A young man with a worried expression held the boy’s wrist, as if by keeping track of how often the teenager’s heart beat, he was keeping him alive. The ambulances began arriving, at least 40 in all, sirens screaming. Two paramedics put the boy’s twisted body on a stretcher and carried him away.

On the news that night, I learned that the boy was a 19-year-old NYU sophomore named Carlos Oyola. He had died shortly after the young man and I left him to the paramedics’ care. I watched as his mother cried into a newscaster’s microphone. I thought of sending her a card but never did.

 

* * *

 

Author’s note: I witnessed the aftermath of the April 23, 1992 Washington Square Park “massacre” when Stella Maychick, 74, mistakenly stepped on the accelerator rather than the brake as she shifted her 1987 Oldsmobile into drive. She veered into the park, killing five people and injuring 26 others. NYU named a scholarship in honor of Carlos Oyola, who lived at 367 Second Street in Brooklyn.

 

Ellen Lindquist’s short-short “In the Hawaiian Garden Where I Came to Escape Feeling Sad” was selected to teach a course in flash fiction at the University of Glasgow. In 2004, she was invited to submit poetic texts to the London Art Biennial. Visit her here: www.ellenlindquist.blogspot.com.

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§ 9 Responses to “Washington Square Park Massacre”

  • Joe says:

    I was a student at NYU at the time of this accident and witnessed the event. I was walking right behind the car and saw bodies flying up high in the air. I saw lots of shoes, bodies and blood in the path of the car. I saw the people lift the car and the driver saying “I couldn’t stop!”.

  • Sofia says:

    Carlos Oyola was my brother. I was 14 when he died. My parents never really told me the extent of his injuries. In many ways i wish i had not read this. I miss him every day.

  • Tamara Molina says:

    Carlos Oyola was my boyfriend at that time. I was 18. The news gave the “accident details” however, as Sofia (his sister above mentions-who I am STILL in touch with), I wish I had not read this. This is graphic and did not give me a good visual. The only peace here is the comparison of Carlos to Noisi. I just happened to google the accident to see what ever came about some other victims, and this article came up and I must say was very hard reading… We still miss him and celebrate annually his honor at NYU. It was exactly that, a massacre. God Bless all those affected that may come across this article. I know it was not written with bad intentions, but still hard to read the DETAILS.

  • yvette molina says:

    soooo i had recently been talking of this incident with coworkers of mine and googled washington park, carlos oyola found basic articles but then my sister just told me of this one. Recently even went to NYU dinner where CARLOS is still honored even though not that a day goes by when he is not thought of !!!!!!!!! I sat there the entire night (20 yrs later) in tears remembering what a BEAUTIFUL person this UGLY world lost !!!!!!!!!
    Carlos dated my sister, Tamara, I remember that day like it was yesterday!! It was a really nice day, for that is all I spoke of all day. The irony was that my sister had lunch with me that day and at that time I worked in union square and she was supposed to meet Carlos at washington Square Park but didnt. When I went for my afternoon cigeratte the sirens had already started. I prayed silently as I could only imagine what that could have meant for nyc. As I left for the day the sirens continued as well as my prayers!!!!!!!! My day continued as normal. However, as the evening approached and as we were all getting ready for bed the phone rang.
    I remember nothing from that point. I worked for an Insurance company at the time and by chance had most of nyc hospital telephone numbers memorized, so the calls began. I do remember hardly being able to speak and next I am in a cab rubbing my sisters head telling her everythings ok and he was ok. But that wasnt the case even though I still WANTED to believe it was. As we walk into the room the entire family there all red eyed the priest looked at me and my sister and just shook slightlly shook his head, My sister falls to the ground and the room begins crying.
    You know what the reality of the day was hard enough. NO ONE NEEDED DETAILS BUT THANK YOU FOR LETTING US ALL RELIVE THAT DAY IN A WAY THAT WE NEVER DID, AS CARLOS WAS SOMES SON BROTHER BOYFIEND FRIEND AND MENTOR

  • […] Washington Square Massacre, as the incident came to be known, left deep marks on NYC transportation advocacy. Members of Transportation Alternatives and […]

  • kyra arena says:

    I was dating Bryant Fonsceca who was the first to be hit and the last to leave his body.I woumd say we were more friends then anyrhing else.We were more like kindred spirits.I will never forget that day..or the next week.
    I went to visit him in the hospital ..he was on life support and was lieing there alone..He had broken hips,legs,arms And on a breathing.machinr.His face i remember was not scratched at all.His body didnt look hurt either..alot of internal injuries.noone in his family was with him.
    His parents were both addicts and his sister too young to go alone to the hospital…
    I didnt know what to do or say…the next day I came back and the bed was gone in the ICU and all I could think was that I wish somehow I could have done.something to make his passage to the Lord easier.Now I am a student of the vedas or a “Hare Krsna” and if i could I would have chanted the beautiful names of the Lord to him..as we do when someone is oreparing to leave..its quite beautiful.I always think of him around this time and when I am in NYC.Ive lived in Fl.quite a while..I always wondered what happened to Carloss girlfriend and how she was coping…We never met back then but you were always in my prayers and thoughts.I think they were the two yougest..Bryant was 19.
    If u ever want to email me my email is
    Kyra.rns@gmail.com

  • kyra arena says:

    His parents have since died as well

  • Tamara Molina says:

    Kyra. Carlos is buried right next to Bryant. I went to school with his cousin Edwin. Crazy. I always lay fresh flowers down for Bryant when visiting the grave site… Blessings to u and your memories.

  • Ignacio Cruz says:

    My condolences to all who lost a loved one on that beautiful spring day back in April 1992. I was there when I lost my best friend Ruben Perez to this horrific accident. “Semper fi ” my bro!

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