By Julia Duarte
March 2001

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The afternoon was cold and rainy. I was travelling with my family from Esmeraldas to Quito. Suddenly, on rounding one of the sharp and torturous curves which dot the highway, we came across a group of people gathered around two accident victims. The two men lay stretched out on the road under the persistent rain. Everyone present bemoaned the consequences of the terrible accident. A gasoline tanker had collided head on with a tiny car. The driver of the tanker had fled and the victims, still alive, moaned in pain.

We were travelling in a half-ton truck filled with people and luggage, but we stopped to see if there was anything we could do. Some other drivers also stopped. However, as soon as the wrecked car was moved out of the way and the road was cleared, everyone proceeded on their way. We tried in vain to obtain help in transporting the victims to El Carmen, the closest city, so that they could receive medical attention. The responses were the same: “I’m not going to El Carmen,” or “I’m in a hurry.”

The humble people of the area arrived on foot to bear witness to what was happening. They tried to give consolation to the victims with words of prayer and hope. Their words were in sharp contrast to the deaf ears of drivers who refused to stop, either because they were afraid or because they did not want to assume the responsibility of helping.


Eventually an ambulance miraculously appeared, its presence filling us with hope. We flagged it down and asked the driver to transport the injured to El Carmen. His response was curt: “I’m not going in that direction. I’m going to the city of Chone. If you want to send them to Chone, put them in the ambulance.” Our dilemma now centred around the fact that Chone was a great deal further away than El Carmen.

Eventually we decided to jettison some of the baggage in our truck, giving us enough room to carry the more injured man to El Carmen. Of course, that left one man still without attention. At this point we decided to be much firmer, and stood in the lane of unblocked traffic. Our aim was to force one of the many cars, containing no more than their drivers, to transport the other man to hospital.

The hour journey to El Carmen seemed endless because of the intensity of the rain, the potholes in the road, the danger of sudden landslides for which the region is known, and the slow speed at which we traveled. At every slight bump our injured passenger cried out in pain.

Eventually we arrived at El Carmen and drove to the only clinic in the city. As we entered the emergency driveway a number of people with a sense of solidarity surrounded our truck. They helped carry the injured man to the treatment room while others went off in search of a doctor.

In times of economic crisis such as that in which Ecuador now finds itself, it seems that in certain levels of society the heart and soul of the people harden. Ears fall deaf to the cries of suffering heard all around. These are the people who force us to ask, “Where is the Good Samaritan?”

At the same time, there are signs of hope. In the face of a society closed in on itself, one cold, rainy afternoon we were able to appreciate the strength of solidarity among the most humble.

Scarboro lay missioner Julia Duarte is an Ecuadorian working in the Diocese of Riobamba, Ecuador, with her husband Tom Walsh and their children.

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