Pamela Perkins is still moved to tears when she talks about the ducks.
The mother and her four ducklings, to be precise.
Perkins was on her way to Jacob Liquor Exchange II to pick up a bottle of wine for her father at about 8:45 p.m. on May 15 when she saw “a shadow or something” on a dark stretch of West 21st Street east of Maize Road.
“They were 5 feet in front of the car when I could see exactly what it was,” Perkins said.
She didn’t have time to stop.
“I hit the mother,” said Perkins, 57. “Just a loud bang. I became upset ... heartsick. It just made me feel so horrible.”
She continued to the liquor store and told the cashier what happened.
“I don’t know whether I should go back,” she said she told the cashier. “I wonder if the ducklings are OK?”
She said the cashier told her, “You have to go back. You have to! I’ll follow.”
The cashier grabbed a box to put the ducklings into if they were still alive. They drove east on 21st in separate vehicles to the collision scene in the 9800 block of West 21st, between Tyler and Maize Road. Perkins parked in the median and could see the body of the mother but not the ducklings.
She waited for traffic to go by and then walked into the street. She discovered bad news: there were no survivors.
They were all impossible to see.
Pamela Perkins, talking about the ducklings on West 21st Street
“All four were dead next to their mother,” she said. “They weren’t going to leave their mother. They stayed right there.”
That stretch of 21st is poorly lit, she said.
“They were all impossible to see,” Perkins said.
Devastated, she walked to the other side of 21st, planning to turn around and return to her car when there was no oncoming traffic. But she didn’t get as far off the street as she thought.
“A car came from out of nowhere and hit the left side of my body,” Perkins said. “His passenger mirror hit my elbow.
“I don’t know how I landed. It felt like I was in the air for a long time. I remember thinking, ‘I hope I’m not going to land hard.’ ”
She opened her eyes and was lying on her back. In no time, she was surrounded by people asking whether she needed help. The man who drove the car that hit her came back and asked if she was all right. She said, “No.”
She rode in an ambulance to the hospital, where they took scans and X-rays. She needs an MRI on her lower back, she said, and she’s still pretty sore from the experience.
Then there’s the matter of the citation she received for obstructing traffic. She was ticketed because she wasn’t in a crosswalk, she said.
Still, she says, she knows it could have been so much worse. She could have been killed.
“I just feel like I should have known better” to stop and try to help the ducks, Perkins said.
But she knows that, given her soft heart for animals, she would want to stop and help the ducks if the same scenario presented itself again.
Instead, she said, her moment of decision needed to be earlier.
“I should have just stayed home,” she said. “None of this would have happened if I had just said, ‘No, I don’t want to go.’ ”