Monday, April 28, 2008

911....what's your emergency?

"Yes ma'am. I am on Eastbound 84 between mile markers here and there and there is a body lying in the righthand lane."

That was the conversation I found myself having around 9:15 last night. After spending a wonderful and busy afternoon in Portland with my Mom and Jack, Skippy was driving a van full of sleeping kids (and a sleeping wife) homeward.

He woke me up just outside of town so that I could get my bearings a bit. Traffic was light. I could hear Banana snoring. As we were chatting about what a wonderful week it had been, I think we both noticed the vehicle two cars up hit its brakes and swerve but it's not as if it caught our full attention - we were just driving along, almost home. However, when the car in front of us swerved, Skippy was suddenly more focused on the road - just in time for us to swerve as well - around what appeared at first to be a sack of clothes.

In split seconds he looked at me and I looked at him and we both realized that what we had just seen was a person. He immediately pulled over to the shoulder and jumped out of the van (he has past emergency training) and I scrambled for my phone to call 911. Both cars in front of us had also pulled over and the two behind us as well, but my call was the first one into dispatch.

That conversation will stay with me forever I think. The woman was so calm and I could hear my own voice rising and struggling to keep from getting hysterical. A police car was on the scene before I was off the phone and seconds later, the fire truck and ambulance arrived.

The young man lying in the right lane was dead on the scene. As long as I live I will never forget what I saw. Last night I kept trying to close my eyes and all I could see in my mind was a lone shoe - in the left lane about twenty feet from the body.

The whole thing was surreal. Our small knot of witnesses stuck pretty close together. One woman was crying. One was praying. And I thought I might be sick. Skippy was answering questions for the medics, and then suddenly the woman who had been driving the truck two cars in front of us said, "I swear, I thought it was a deer. Oh God, I thought it was a deer."

To see this woman who was obviously in shock, who's just struck and killed another human being, rocked me to the core. Several of us surrounded her - in part to make sure she stayed on the scene and in part to help hold her together. She was shaking. Her skin was cold as ice.

It didn't feel real. I've seen highways shut down for accidents - but to be a witness standing on the OTHER side of the flashing lights is another thing all together. You couldn't help seeing things that you wish you could un-see. Even though we didn't see the actual accident occur, I saw plenty of the aftermath that I wish I hadn't, and THAT was out of the corner of my eye because I couldn't bear to actually look. But it was hard not to see things - cops are standing there asking us questions and ten feet away a human being is laying in the middle of the freeway. It kind of screws you up. There was a young group of kids across the street at one of the motels trying to get a glimpse of what was happening and believe me, they don't know how lucky they are that they couldn't see squat because what I saw gave me nightmares last night.

Finally we were told that we could go, that the police would be in touch if they had any more questions, and to call if we remembered anything that might be useful. I'll never forget walking away from the woman who hit the young kid - thinking that in a heartbeat her entire life had changed - even if nothing happens legally, she will certainly never be the same. And somewhere a family was about to receive the news that no one wants to hear.

My own kids slept through the entire thing. As we were getting in the van Banana woke up and asked us what was happening. We just told her that there had been an accident and that mommy and daddy were seeing if anyone needed any help. She dozed back off until we got home five minutes later. I am so thankful that today I don't have to worry about them asking questions or being scared. I am so thankful that we weren't just two cars up when that kid decided to run across the freeway. I am so thankful for my family.


Marcy said...

I remember my first emergency that I drove up on and I was totally freaked out. Since then I became an advanced emergency medical tech, and the training makes all the difference in how you react. I'm glad you guys are okay, and the kids were asleep. Someone was looking over your family. Hang in there together.
Love Marcy

Lucas said...

That is so awful, it is great that the kids slept through it but for you and your husband to get past this will take a while. I hope there are no charges filed ont he woman that hit him and that his parents understand that it is nearly impossible to try and make out what is infront of you, at night on a highway.

May God be with you ath tthis time.

Ms.Toni said...

Hugs all around.

Char said...

We were a few miles behind you on the same night. Luckily we left Portland a few crucial miniutes later than you guys. We saw the flashing lights that diverted traffic off the highway. I said a prayer as we passed the accident. Little did I know my prayer was for Amy.

Chuff said...

Char was behind you and Dave, Trev, and I were near Cousins heading to a gas station. Char and I talked about it later. It was so weird that we were all on the road near one another at the same time.

Aslan said...

Man! You guys know how to party in Oregon. I have GOT to get out there.