Kalyanarat Ranasinghe, a traffic enforcement agent died in a freak accident in New York last Saturday. A street cleaning truck pulled out onto E. 44th St. near Fifth Ave and ran over Mr. Ranasignhe. The words of the story ran through my head last night as I sat on the floor reading my paper 3,000 miles away from this tragedy. About half-way through the third paragraph, they listed his age as 71. I don’t know why, but that detail touched me more than any other story I’ve read this year.
Why was he working at age 71? He had a wife and a married daughter. I read the various stories about the incident and heard that this was a happy and helpful man who emigrated from Sri Lanka 20 years ago. I wonder what his wife of over 50 years will do? I presume there is a pension or some kind of insurance that will take care of her financial needs, but I can’t begin to imagine her grief. Prayers are clearly in order for this family.
Come winter or summer, he was one of those people who stands out in the middle of the streets directing traffic, writing tickets and taking abuse from the public all for the annual salary around $29,000 a year. That salary stuck in my head, because a few minutes earlier I was reading a piece about how fast food workers in Manhattan earn $19,000 per year vs $15,500 they make in Brooklyn. Sad to say, on Staten Island, they make less, but I digress. All this bothers me.
On the other side of the country, also on Saturday, actor Paul Walker of the Fast and Furious films and Roger Roda, anther man, less well know than Walker died in the crash of a $450,000 Porsche. As I was driving home tonight I heard that people have started to leave signs and flowers in tribute of Walker. I am guessing that nobody is leaving tributes for Kalyanarat Ranasinghe or Roger Roda.
My old friend Rachelle would have said in her New Jersey accent that Mr. Ranasinghe should have been enjoying retirement, loving on his wife and bugging his daughter and her husband for grandchildren. Instead he died needlessly on the job, in the weeks before Christmas.
If you have a few moments, put your hands together and pray for this man and his family. Pray for the hard-working people who struggle to put food on the table and keep their children warm. All those people working in the streets and those asking “if you want fries with that”, are humans beings with hopes, aspirations, children and parents. They are real, even if they come from a different country or borough.