Tom Normoyle saw the whole thing.
The Moline man was walking to the corner bus stop with his 4-year-old son Monday morning when he saw an old friend. Robert Moldenhauer, known by many as "The Can Man," was walking his bike across 6th Avenue, headed for the same 26th Street corner as father and son.
Just as Normoyle was calling his wife on his cell phone, he saw the impact. He wishes he hadn't.
"She hit him in the middle of the crosswalk," Normoyle said of the van driver who struck and killed Robert. "She never braked."
The driver continued along 6th Avenue for another block and a half with Robert on her windshield, Normoyle said. The van came to a stop after colliding with a pole just west of the Riverside Park lagoon.
By the time the van stopped, Normoyle had rushed his son back into the house, locking the door behind him.
Then, he took off down the street. Instinct had kicked in.
"When I got to him, I checked for a pulse," he said. "He was already gone."
There is a record of what occurred next. Normoyle did not realize that his wife's voicemail had picked up his call, and it recorded everything.
"Stay right there!" he is heard shouting to his son as he closed the door of his house. "Stay right there!"
What came next was difficult to listen to. The driver was screaming hysterically. Normoyle was doing his best to calm her.
"Somebody help, please!" she screamed as Normoyle warned her not to look at Robert. She screamed frantically for an ambulance and, at one point, cried, "He came out of nowhere!"
Normoyle is aware that many people have read about the accident and have demanded the driver be charged. Those who don't know all the circumstance want their pound of flesh. Though Normoyle witnessed his friend's death, he doesn't know how he feels about charging the driver. And he's glad the decision is not his to make.
It is possible, he said, that Robert didn't realize the van was coming when he stepped into the street. The vehicle was white, and it could have been lost in the new snowfall that surrounded the scene, he said.
Many have criticized the driver, because it appeared in a published photo that she had not cleared the snow and ice from her windshield. But Normoyle has learned she did not have heat in the van. She was driving from dropping her children off at school to picking up others at a family member's house.
"She didn't see him, because she couldn't see," he said. "And she has kids."
Though Robert was more traffic savvy than most, having lived at least a decade on the streets, it is possible, Normoyle said, that he and/or the driver were partially impaired by the morning sun that pounds the roadway there. In other words, a number of factors were at play. He feels certain the driver was speeding. But he knows for certain that she was devastated by the crash and was inconsolable at the scene.
He has an idea of how she feels.
"I remember the sound of his bags rustling in the wind," he said. "I can't get it out of my mind. I can't get the images out.
"I think natural instinct kicked in, and I got down to where he was within 30 seconds. When the cops got there and took over, I became hysterical, too. I didn't have to be in charge anymore, and I lost it for a while. I was a mess."
When his wife realized Monday evening that the ordeal had been recorded on her voicemail, Normoyle relived it. It cost him a night of sleep, and he expects it will cost him many more.
Meanwhile, he also is mourning.
"I knew Robert for a long time," he said. "We talked all the time out in my alley. I've known him since we've lived here, so 12 years. I used to save my cans for him. I told him he could use my garage as a place to get warm whenever he needed it, but he didn't take people's help very much.
"People have said he liked his beers, but I never once saw him drunk. And he was out and about each morning by 6 a.m. I never saw anybody work so hard. I think that's why so many people are upset by this: Rain or shine, snow or sleet or sub-zero temperatures, he was pushing that bike across town.
"If you ask anyone in Moline, they knew who he was. Everybody loved the guy."