Life can change in a blink of an eye…as we know

Dark, dreary, cold and rainy in these parts this week.

Rainy-windshieldWitnessed an interesting event yesterday about 10 minutes after leaving home for a work appointment. A car accident happened ahead of me. Let me set the scene. Apparently an old woman (70ish?) exiting a strip mall parking lot on the west side of a major street pulled out into southbound traffic. That portion of this major street had no street lights or stop signs to slow anyone down. I didn’t actually witness what exactly happened there, just speculating — the scene began for me as I was driving northbound behind a red pickup and I see these two vehicles leaning into one another careening across the two southbound lanes and headed for the truck I’m following. The man ahead tried to brake but couldn’t in time and his truck was struck by these two cars, giving him a flat tire and busting some part that released a bunch of reddish fluid onto the pavement. The two vehicles that had initially crashed were a midsize car (driven by the old woman) and a midsize SUV (driven by a woman who appeared to be in her early 30s).

I see this and immediately started braking and put on my hazard lights about the time they collided with the truck. Get out and find the old woman trapped within her car and unable at that time to get the passenger-side door unlocked or to roll down the window. So she’s panicking in there. The younger woman’s out of her vehicle and freaking out, yelling for someone to dial 911. The old man is a little shaken up but uninjured and is able to get out on his passenger side. I dialed for police assistance and had to get back in my car to hear the operator.

Sad situation. Wrecks just break my heart. So scary for people. Thankfully no one was bleeding, and the first cop arrived very quickly, then another, then the fire trucks and ambulance and tow trucks. An officer took down my name, address, and phone number, asked what I saw, and told me to wait in my car, which I had no other choice but do since I was blocked in by the emergency vehicles. And there for 45 minutes I sat and observed the scene. A man arrived seemingly out of nowhere who must’ve known the younger woman and stood by her on the side of the road, rubbing her shoulder as she cried and fretted. The old woman finally got her passenger door open and rescue personnel leaned in for a long time, figuring out they couldn’t remove her that way due to the console. They used a tow truck to move the SUV and got out the jaws of life tool to remove her driver-side door. The old man from the third vehicle chatted with a tow truck driver until a woman he knew showed up (his wife or family member?) who eventually gave him a ride out of there.

Feels a bit impotent to just sit and watch stuff like this unfold. But what could I do? Followed directions to stay out of the way since the rescue people appeared to have the situation completely under control. So I watched through the raindrops on my windshield and saw as they loaded the old woman onto a stretcher, though it didn’t appear she was horribly injured, just needing to be checked out. Watched some workers picking up scraps of debris from the road and sweeping smaller particles up to haul off in a bucket. Watched the cops go back and forth and collect statements of what had transpired as well as contact information of all involved. Watched the firemen busily go about dismantling the car and one picking up the crumpled removed car door effortlessly with one arm and tossing it onto the back of a truck. Then I watched the tow truck drivers remove each vehicle from the scene one by one as the road crew tossed down some sandy mixture to absorb the chemicals that had drained onto the street.

Listened near the end to a few firemen standing by my car chatting about some technical detail of their job (were trying to get this to go and it was being stubborn — that sort of thing). They laughed a bit, the old man in the truck even chuckled some and shook hands with a couple other men. And it struck me how some folks manage to find humor and camaraderie during difficult and stressful situations. Though for some of these guys it’s probably routine, that being their jobs and all. Just interesting to observe that form of resilience demonstrated by folks…

I’m more of a worrier who has a hard time switching gears and being lighthearted during stressful times.

It was a cold, nasty day for a wreck. Probably should’ve offered for someone to wait in my car, but I smoke so much in there and have so much book and tool clutter that that might seem like punishment for the uninitiated. I’m never really sure what to do in times like that other than call the police and pray for those involved. Scares me a bit. And I’m grateful that some people possess the constitutions to be able to do that sort of work and keep their heads on straight in trying times. It was so fascinating watching all these workers doing exactly what they needed to do quickly and in concert. No confusion, no mix-ups, just working together and getting it done. Actually really nice to see people can still do this and derive value and meaning in their lives through doing so. We appreciate it, most definitely. How can we not?

In less than an hour all evidence of a wreck was removed. Very glad the people involved all looked to be basically okay. Luckily, of all the accidents I’ve witnessed up-close and personally, the people weren’t badly hurt (though one time my husband and I did drive by a wreck on a highway near Tunica, MS, where the injured were being laid out on the grass in the median, obviously seriously hurt if not dead…still bothers me a decade later remembering being waved past that scene).

Driving involves serious risks. No small matter though we take it for granted as something we partake in daily. I drive a lot for my job (past and present) as well as to visit family and people I know in other states. Feels like half my life is spent driving, so I think about these things more than some probably do, especially when the weather’s really crummy and people should’ve stayed home but didn’t (some of us must go out in nearly all conditions, while some just stupidly wander around and wind up sliding through intersections or getting stuck — many of our local retirees and trust-fund babies really should learn to stay home in bad weather). The last two times I’ve been rear-ended (out of a total of 4 times, all in this city and within the last 4 years) were very likely a result of those females texting while driving, and the last one totaled my car.

AMBULANCECould always be worse, I know. And it’s the worse that I worry about for us. Hurts my soul every time I hear an ambulance’s sirens wail, because you know someone out there is hurt and scared, as are their loved ones. That just really fucks with me, call me soft if you must. I’m very grateful that people are willing and able to come to others’ assistance and do so effectively and professionally and with genuine concern and care. That really means a lot to people out here.

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