There was a thud. And then a man who had been waiting for a bus dashed in front of me yelling, "Stop, stop. Don't leave."

My husband and I were out walking our dogs in our Shaw neighborhood Wednesday evening when a woman driving a white Chevy ran into a pedestrian crossing New Jersey Avenue NW. The woman tried to drive away and the man, carrying a satchel of school books and yelling, wanted her to stop.

People seemed to come out of nowhere, in a neighborhood where the streets are mostly empty because of drug-related violence and the occasional murder.

My husband, with his Doberman in tow, ran into the street and persuaded the woman to pull over. The fender was dented and the windshield cracked where the car had collided with the man.

"Don't worry, she isn't going anywhere," a tall man wearing a striped shirt told us. "I saw her hit the guy. I'll ram her car if she tries to leave."

A moving van pulled across the roadway to protect the injured man from southbound traffic. The driver jumped out and offered a pad to cover the victim who was sprawled in the street.

A man wearing blue jeans began to direct northbound traffic around the scene.

I ran to the nearest phone and called the emergency number. A tape recording told me all lines were busy. Meanwhile a passing motorist drove down the street to the firehouse to get help.

The injured pedestrian, a man about 40 wearing a heavy coat, was beginning to stir.

"Talk to me," he said.

Several people standing over him said, "You'll be okay," and "Help is coming."

"Don't move," said my husband as he squatted next to the man, the Doberman sitting attentively at his side.

The injured man eyed my husband's new cowboy boots. "Nice boots," he said. Everyone smiled.

In the harsh glare cast by the high crime lights that line New Jersey Avenue, a group of strangers bent over a man they didn't know, comforting him.

A firetruck arrived, as did an ambulance. Finally a police officer came along to take control of the driver and to interview the man with the satchel.

We all walked away, still strangers to each other. We had been a team for a few minutes, doing the right thing, trying to help someone. Now we parted as quickly as we had come together.

Shaw suddenly seemed a much better place to live.

-- Linda Wheeler is a Washington Post staff writer.