THE MEN stood steps from where their paths first crossed.
Six weeks earlier, on the morning of Jan. 26, Denis Pollock was going through the routines of his day. He'd just gotten off the subway and was walking through Suburban Station to his job in Center City. He approached the first ticket window and ordered some tokens - and then he felt something in the back of his head. Was someone hitting him? Was he being robbed? Disoriented by the pain, he didn't know. He reached behind him and felt a hole in his head, and then looked down at his hands and saw blood.
Lamar Anderson, a homeless man, was sitting nearby on a bench, charging his tablet the way he usually did after he left the homeless shelter where he spent his nights. He heard the attack first - a disturbing thump. And then he saw a man attacking Pollock from behind with a pipe wrench. Anderson jumped to his feet and stood between Pollock and the other man, who had walked away but was now circling back.
"You're not going to do this!" Anderson told the man when he tried to approach Pollock again, still wielding the pipe wrench.
Pollock, 58, knew people had come to his aid that morning. But it wasn't until he read about Anderson in this column that he knew the identity of a person who played an integral role - the man, police said, who likely saved his life.
A homeless man randomly attacked Pollock. But another homeless man had helped him.
Last week, they met for the first time since the attack. Anderson and Pollock shook hands like old friends. It was sometimes hard to hear the conversation between the men in the noisy concourse, but for Pollock, it boiled down to this: "I don't know what else to say except thank you," he told Anderson as the two stood near the ticket window where Pollock was assaulted.
A couple of weeks earlier, I had met with Pollock, a software engineer, and his wife in their Bustleton home. He was still recovering from his injuries, and was still hazy on some of the details. Besides several skull fractures, he has a concussion, hearing loss in his right ear, and persistent headaches.
"I just remember getting whacked in the head. I couldn't figure out what it was," he said. "I remember getting hit and thinking to myself, 'I'm getting attacked. I'm going to get robbed,' but more so I'm thinking, 'I can't take any more hits.'
"I remember three hits."
Surveillance video shows 12 blows.
Police arrested Jeremy Wilson, 38. Wilson, who police described as a transient with a lengthy criminal record in several states, was charged with attempted murder and related counts.
Pollock was reluctant to talk about the day, but he agreed so that people would know how grateful he and his family are to all who stepped in: A woman he remembers handing him ice and a towel, SEPTA police officers, Philly firefighters and medics, and the trauma team at Hahnemann University Hospital.
And, of course, Anderson.
"We are forever grateful for all the people who came to my husband's aid," said Patricia Pollock. "It is wonderful to know, although this was a horrific act, that there are still many good people in this world. Good still exists in this city."
Last week, as commuters hurried past the two men, Anderson and Pollock talked about the blessing of emerging from such a vicious attack, and about the blessings Anderson hopes will come his way some day.
Both men still have long roads ahead of them. For Pollock, a long road to a full recovery. For Anderson, a long road to getting off the streets. In the month or so since I've known him, Anderson oscillates between believing his luck will turn around and wondering if it's run out.
Anderson, 37, got a call for a job interview shortly after my first column about him, but he didn't get the job. He thinks he was too tired to make a good impression; he'd woken up at 4 a.m. at the shelter to get ready for the interview.
"I should have gotten more rest," he said. "I should have acted happier."
He's still hoping for permanent housing.
But last week, standing with Pollock, his wife, and their daughter Danielle Maloney, there was a light in Anderson's eyes. He was happy and animated and emotional.
"I really didn't think you'd be walking and talking. I'm glad. I'm really glad. It makes my heart feel good."
Pollock's wife hugged Anderson. "God sent you to save him."