Seeing in the dark

A conversation with Park extension native, Peter Nikolantonakis, and how he sees the state of affairs when it comes to his safety and the care those local citizens take to watch out for him and those like him as they hasten to go about their day

It’s been a trying time for everyone and all over the world. The Covid-19 pandemic tried the patience in many and it at times brought out the worst in society. And as sad as that is to say, it is necessary to point out. And yes, it brought out the best in some portions of society and that too is valid enough to point out.

But for some out there, Covid-19 was just another addition to the challenges they face every single day—were already facing even before the pandemic hit our shores here in Canada and Quebec … and of course here in Park Extension.

Enter Peter … He’s been living with challenges since he was eight years old and things have never gotten easier for him. For Peter, the challenges only grew more difficult as the pandemic moved into our collective lives, or rather his. Maybe it’s time we stop thinking of ourselves and perhaps think about him and those like him and what we can do to perhaps make things a little easier on those that were already facing a crisis all their own … a crisis they and he cannot run away from, and his blindness isn’t at all what I’m addressing here.

His brief history

Born and raised in Park Extension, Peter was diagnosed with Glaucoma at a very young age. He tried many procedures to reverse the effect of his illness over the years, but the blindness was unavoidable.

But he hasn’t laid down in defeat. Quite the contrary, he is an outspoken spokesman for creating awareness for those with the same affliction and has become a flag bearer for those without a voice.

Even as we spoke, neighborhood people came by to say hello, one stopping to talk to him as I snapped some pictures

His accomplishments

He has written many articles on his blog—all the articles spirited and having a conviction for getting his valid message across to one and all and not only those in Park Extension. The blog is called Peter’s View and it provides insight into his thoughts as all happens around him: the virus, the seasons changing and the current state of humanity as it applies to him and those with the same afflictions as he.

In his most recent article about the fall season, he states the following (fragmented from his piece): “The sounds and smells of this time is truly exceptional. To hear certain bird species getting ready to leave my neighborhood is out of this world. To hear the Canada geese flying over my house is something else … to hear the leaves crunching underneath my feet is something else. To hear the leaves falling down from the many trees on my street is truly beautiful … this whole year has been difficult for most of our humanity. Yet, try to do one thing. Try to take in all of the sounds and smells of this season. They are truly special and very memorable. Please don’t let them go by you. Why? These memories will be lost in a very quick instant. Before we will know what has happened, the fall will have gone by us and the cold air will not be far behind. This is the reason it is so important to take it all in. At the end of the day, it is truly important to use all of your senses at this very special moment in time.”

Said as perhaps only he could say it and oh-so-true. But the passing seasons isn’t all he gets to on his blog.

His gripe

He’s had a specific problem as of late and the blog isn’t the only place he’s spoken about it, as he has also had an article published on the subject. In our interview he filled me in on how he feels about it in detail.

Essentially, he has noticed that many in the neighborhood aren’t too careful about his situation, meaning that people aren’t aware enough to take the care not to crash into him as they have their heads bent forward, their noses in their cellular phones, busy texting or posting images about what they ate for breakfast. They’re doing this instead of watching out for the blind man trying to make his way around the very neighborhood he grew up in.

On this topic on his blog he writes: “This afternoon I was taking a walk in my neighborhood. I was going to my local neighborhood grocery store to buy some items. While I was being cautious to watch out for people, a little boy drove his bicycle and almost drove over my white cane. This type of situation happens to me on a quite frequent occasion. I understand people are quite distracted by many things on the street. Things like: super smart phone, Iphones, cars and other people walking on the street. Yet, there is one thing I cannot grasp in my mind. DON’T PEOPLE KNOW BASIC SAFETY RULES?! I am not talking about rocket science. Is it too much for people to be careful and mindful of others in their neighborhood? Yet, in this particular case, the overwhelming answer to my question would be “NO”.”

Who can he pass the torch to?

He is doing everything in his power to raise awareness and we at the paper hope that this helps him on his journey as well, and in the meantime, maybe we can all be a little more careful when walking around out there—perhaps even slow things down—and not just for ourselves, but for that person out there whose safety and well-being relies on our watching out for them when they can’t.