Very introspective week so far. Tuesday I was a witness to a bad car accident. It was close to my house, on a 55 MPH undivided road. A pick-up truck, driving two cars in front of me, swerved into on-coming traffic. It crossed the on-coming lane and went up a bank along the shoulder of the road. The truck passed the on-coming car on its passenger side, while driving on the 45 degree bank. No break lights were coming on. It then swerved back across both lanes and onto the bank on the other side of the road. There the truck hit an out-crop of rock and rolled. It flew into the air. When it stopped rolling, the truck was upright but facing the other direction. The car in front of me slammed on its brakes. I slammed on my brakes. I heard the tires of the car behind me squeal. We all jumped out of the car, simultaneously dialing 911. I ran down to the truck. There were parts of the truck, and the contents from inside, thrown all over the ground. The driver was an old man with a long gray beard. He was bleeding but conscious. I asked him his name and if he was OK? He wasn’t sure where he was on what had just happened. He tried to open his door but I told him to stay where he was until the ambulance got there. (It turned out all his doors were jammed from the roof being smashed and he couldn’t have gotten out.) First on the scene was a cop followed by two fire trucks, two ambulances, two additional police cars and 5 or 6 cars with volunteer EMTs. There were lights flashing and people running every where. It felt like controlled chaos running in slow motion. The fire fighters cut open the doors. The EMTs crawled across the passenger seat with a neck brace and back board in tow. Other fire fighters checked for gas leaking onto the ground. I moved out of the way just in time to avoid being tripped by a fire hose being drug to the truck. My chest started to tighten. I was having trouble breathing. “This is what it must have been like at our accident,” I thought to my self. “Only more emergency responders… and Life Lion… and Hagerstown Hospital’s helicopter…” I started feeling dizzy. “I think I am going to throw up.”
A police officer walked over to me and asked if he could get a statement. I told him what I saw and gave him my cell number. He gave me his card and walked away to take another witness’s statement. I looked for my SUV. All I wanted to do was to get to my house. It was the middle of the day and I was just running home to get a folder I left on my desk. Now, if I could just get home, I might not leave my house again. But, I couldn’t get out. My SUV was blocked in by all the emergency vehicles. I stood and watched as they moved the driver, strapped to a back board, from the truck onto the gurney. I just stared as they lifted it into one of the waiting ambulances and drove away. Then I realized that the space the ambulance used to occupy was large enough for my SUV to slip through. I asked a fireman, who was standing there, if he would help guide me out. I got into my car. It was still running. I backed up, pulled forward, backed up some more, then slowly drove between two fire trucks. I was out. The road was empty because both lanes had been shut down. As I approached the road block, the flat-bed tow truck was driving through it. I thought about the photo of our car sitting at the garage. “I have got to keep my damn head clear or I am not going to be able to drive.” I went through the road block and turned onto the detour. As I weaved through the back roads I gripped the steering wheel so tight that my knuckles were turning white. Every on-coming car caused me to ride the shoulder. “I just need to get home… I just need to lay down a little…”
I pulled in my garage and turned off my car. I couldn’t move. “I’m home”, I told my self. For some reason it didn’t help. Getting home wasn’t going to make the nausea go away. Today, for the first time, I thought about what it must have been like at the scene of our accident. This one was pretty crazy and ours would have been worse. I had never really given it much thought. I don’t remember it so how could I have pictured it, or even written about it. I couldn’t wrap my head around why it bothered me so much. The first responders did a great job today. I know they did a great job at our accident. They helped save my life. Where was all the anxiety coming from?
I got out of my SUV and walked inside my house. I called Tonia. I told her what happened and that I was a little shaken but I would be OK. I walked into my bedroom. I looked at my bed and then at the floor. My running shoes were laying there. I picked them up and set them on the bed. “The old John would run to clear his mind”, I told myself. I changed my cloths, put on my shoes and headed outside. I was too afraid to leave my dead-end road, so I just ran laps up and down the street. Two miles later I was starting to feel the pain of running and the release of the images in my mind. “How many aspects of the accident have I not thought about? How many more demons did I still have to face and beat?” Little did I know I would be facing another in just two days…
(to be continued)