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Column One: 'How many times have you been shot?'

August 10, 2009 | 10:39 am

Rashaun Williams, left, talks to Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske after Williams was sent home to recuperate from surgery.

I looked into the woman's face. Her large brown eyes widened with fear. She winced in pain. Blood spurted from her thighs.

I dropped my purse and knelt beside her on the asphalt.

Reporters are trained to remain detached, to observe and record without interfering. But the circumstances that Saturday afternoon compelled me to reach out and help this stranger, the victim of a drive-by shooting in South Los Angeles.

From that chance encounter, a bond would grow between us -- fleeting but powerful. Later, I would learn about her life, that she was a working single mother who had just moved to the high desert to escape gang violence. But at that moment, all I could think about was how to stop the bleeding.

Someone had ripped up a white T-shirt and tied the strips of cloth around her legs, below her shorts, as tourniquets. I put my hands on the bloodstained rags and pressed. She cringed but did not complain.

I had taken a first aid course before going to Baghdad on assignment in 2006. I hadn't needed to use the training in Iraq. I never imagined I would need it in Los Angeles.

I remembered I was supposed to make sure the victim was alert and her airways clear. I asked her if she could breathe. She said yes but that the sun was boiling the pavement beneath her.

"I need to move," she moaned, tugging at her pink tank top. "I got to get out of here!"

Several people offered to carry her into the shade. But I had been taught never to move an injured person unless absolutely necessary. Her blood was already coating the ground.

"How many times have you been shot?" I asked, my voice trembling.

Keep reading: South L.A. shooting leads to an unexpected bond

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Athens 

Above is an excerpt from Molly Hennessy-Fiske's first-person account of a shooting that took place July 11, near a street memorial set up for Woodrow Player III. Player, a 22-year old black man, was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies about 8:45 p.m. on Friday, July 10, in the 11200 block of Berendo Avenue in Athens.

Photo: Rashaun Williams, left, talks to Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske after Williams was sent home to recuperate from surgery. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

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