I haven’t slept much in the past few days. As I write this it is 6am Monday, and I laid my head down shortly after midnight and gave up trying to sleep around 1:30. Since then I have watch a few bad movies from the early 1990’s and thought about this weekend’s events and their possible far-reaching implications for my life.
As I drove home from work in the early hours of Saturday morning, I witnessed a bad crash. One car attempted to overtake and pass another car at a high rate of speed, just as he had done moments earlier to me. The driver seemed to be oblivious to the many open lanes on the near-deserted freeway and chose to come right up to the rear bumper of the car he was passing before changing lanes. He miscalculated and clipped the bumper of a middle-aged mechanic heading home to his wife after a long night at work. The mechanic’s car spun halfway around before slamming into the freeway’s center divider, momentarily leaving the ground before coming to a smashing halt in the carpool lane. Almost out of reflex I turned on my hazard lights and began to slow my car, moving closer to the scene of the crash. I knew that if the driver of the crashed car was injured, I may be the only person in a position to help. I passed the wreck and parked my car about 100 yards ahead of it in the carpool lane and sprinted back to the mangled car to seek the condition of the driver. I found him stumbling out of his car, dazed but only minorly injured. His raised his cellphone, which had been smashed while in his pants pocket. I used my phone to call for help. As I was being directed to the right agency, I found that the man was in decent health but confused from the crash. We stood between his wrecked car and mine when we saw a car careening toward us, seemingly unaware that there was a car right in front of him. He watched helplessly as that car narrowly avoided crashing into his wrecked vehicle. With no way to signal other drivers or protect ourselves from another collision we jumped over the concrete barrier that separated the two directions of the freeway, all while I was describing the scene to the police dispatcher. Moments after we landed on the other side of the freeway (feeling more secure as construction had closed two lanes and we had some breathing room from oncoming traffic) I saw yet another car screaming toward the wreck. I unconsciously yelled into the phone, “he’s going to hit!” Again at the last moment the driver swerved, although this time he would not be as lucky as his predecessor. The driver slammed on his brakes as he jerked the wheel, locking his wheels and skidding sideways. Although he was able to pass the wrecked car, he almost immediately skidded right back into the lane we had been standing in just seconds before. His car slammed into mine, pinning it between him and the wall. I ran to see if he was ok, only to find him saved by his airbag.
When all was said and done, the darkness and speed had claimed about 10 cars, none as seriously as the three that lay in the carpool lane. Other vehicles were damaged after hitting or running over debris, including at least two cars that hit my now-detached bumper. I stayed on scene for hours as the highway patrol tried to make sense of the incident. It wasn’t until later that the my leg began to bruise from being hit by a piece of car that flew over the median during one of the many collisions. Later still I found the abrasion on my forearm, its origin still a mystery to me, and the hole in my newly purchased work shirt indicating that something even contacted my chest without my realization.
When I returned home and the adrenaline began to wear off I realized that not only was my family’s sole car (which was our first purchase as a married couple and had only months before been paid in full) destroyed, but that I had come within seconds of my own end. Had I and the mechanic not jumped over the median when we did, we would have been struck by the car before it came to rest against mine. I surely would have either been thrown into the air onto a still busy freeway, flattened under his skidding tires, or pinned against my own demolished car. I am still strangely numb to these facts.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, I spent most of my time on my phone, talking to my insurance company and trying to figure out how big of a financial loss this will be to my already overextended family. It wasn’t until after these conversations were complete that I realized I came very close to not having such conversations ever again.
I honestly have no analysis for this event. Was this a case of God’s providence protecting my life? Was I just lucky? Was this a case of no good deed going unpunished? I don’t know the answer, but I am unsatisfied with any of the theses. This was simply a recounting of recent events.