On an average day in San Francisco, three people are injured by drivers. But only a small portion of these crashes are reported in the media. Of those that do get ink, most reports are just a blurb of very basic information — whether the person suffered “life-threatening” or “non-life threatening” injuries, whether the driver “cooperated” with police. Rarely are stories told about the victims whose lives were left shattered in the wake of the crash.
Monique Porsandeh before the crash.
On February 24, a reckless driver plowed through two pedestrians as they crossed Fillmore and Green Streets in the Marina District at about 2 a.m. The headlines appeared in early March: “Two pedestrians struck, injured on Fillmore Street,” and ”SFPD seeking damaged Honda Accord in double hit-and-run.”
Four months later, I discovered that the victim in that crash was Monique Porsandeh, whom I grew up attending grade school with in Southern California but hadn’t kept in touch with. Porsandeh, I learned, was undergoing intensive physical therapy to regain basic physical abilities like standing and walking, while struggling to foot the bill for tens of thousands of dollars in medical care. She says she doesn’t remember the first two weeks after she was hospitalized.
The night of the crash, Porsandeh’s life as a graduate neuroscience researcher at UC Berkeley came to a sudden halt. ”I still feel strangely disconnected from the accident… and that’s hard because there’s a gap in my life,” she wrote in an email from a physical rehab center in Santa Barbara, where she was moved to be closer to her family in Ventura County. She said she still lacked the energy to talk extensively for a phone interview in addition to her physical therapy.
Though finding the driver might help bring her a sense of closure, “I don’t harbor any anger or lingering resentment for whoever did this,” Porsandeh said. “I just want to meet him or her, and look them in the eye, because I don’t understand how someone could hit me and left me in the street to die.”
Police determined that the driver had been going roughly 40 mph westbound on the wrong side of Green — a neighborhood street — when he or she ran the stop sign where Porsandeh and her friend were crossing, hitting them both. The driver sped off, leaving Porsandeh with a shattered pelvis and leg, several broken vertebrae and other bones, as well as traumatic brain injury and neurological damage. The other victim suffered only minor injuries. A nearby witness called 911.
“This driver changed the course of Monique’s life in an instant,” said Sunny Lai, a close friend. Lai and other friends from the International House — the UC Berkeley student residence where Porsandeh lived — organized a rally on Saturday, where a few dozen supporters marched through the Marina to bring attention to the need for safer streets and to bring the driver to justice.
“I can’t really imagine what [the driver was] thinking, if they were thinking,” said Amit Deutsch, also a friend of Porsandeh’s from the I-House.