We interrupt this regularly scheduled post…

WKQG4943.jpgYesterday I witnessed a terrible accident.

We are driving to meet a friend for dinner, heading the opposite direction of our commute, the opposite direction of traffic. Traffic flows easily at full highway speeds, or faster perhaps.

I hear it before I see it. An explosion a quarter mile ahead. I don’t see the inciting incident, but others do. I see a smear on the diagonal vector, no longer parallel. Time is slowing down, and the cars around us pause at 65+ miles an hour.

The nose of the car shoots up into the air, points at the sky. A metal pirouette, a Nancy Rubins’ in real life. It lands on its side and in some complicated equation of forces, begins to tumble. I am pulling right hard: the road ahead is a cloud of debris, spinning off at impossible angles.

And I watch it go 1…no, no, no, no, no…2….no, no, no, no…3 lanes of traffic, wheels over roof. It slams mid-somersault into the earthen embankment on the shoulder with another explosion of dirt.

shit. shit. shit.

And tumbles back to rest on its roof in the slow lane.

Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1! I shout and we are out of the car, running. Others are running too, converging on the car. Colored fluids are pouring from its exposed silver belly. Every one of our faces is a grim mask.

Because we are sure the people in that car are dead. Maybe not yet, but soon.

Instead, there she is: a woman on her hands and knees, looking up at us out of an upside-down window frame.

“It’s only me in the car. I’m okay. I was wearing my seatbelt.”

She is bleeding from small cuts all over her legs, the glass pressed through her pantyhose; she is dusty;

and she is okay.

As we help her out of the car, there is only the present, no past and no future. It occurs to me: I witnessed an honest-to-god miracle.

That feeling has stayed with me since yesterday.  It happened in an instant is always the cliché on accidents, and we are taught to always avoid clichés, but, but, but

I think over and over again…

Be kind.
Drive like you care about life.
Wear your seatbelt.

They talk about events that shake you up, make you see the world fresh, stripped of the illusion of security and ground, as Buddhist teachers say – and this was one of them. That second to the last statement is for the driver who hit the woman; witnesses said he was weaving erratically between lanes and speeding when he clipped the woman’s back bumper and sent her car spinning. She told us that she never saw him coming and never knew what hit her. Photograph by me, a blurry version of this Silent Sunday. Nancy Rubins creates fantastic (and often massive) sculptures out of recycled metal parts – you can see examples of her work here

35 comments

    1. Thank you, Jennifer – me too. Every time I’ve driven on the highway since then, I’ve thought about it – I’ve looked ahead and been so grateful to see everyone driving along, in their lanes, just going to work…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Michael. It was one of those moments in time I will never forget – seeing her face look up at us from the shattered window and say “I’m okay.” Amazing.

      Me too – I am praying for her. As other folks have said more eloquently, even after the bruises and cuts heal, there can be other wounds that linger.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Words fail me, shocking. My late husband and 15 year old Son at the time were hit by a driver whose car ended up on the bonnet of our car. My Husband and Son survived, few injuries yet my Husband never got over the shock and died the following year – that was 21 years ago this year – you never forget car accidents. Hope you will be ok.

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    1. Thank you, Anna. I am doing well and praying for the lady in the car, that she will be okay too. Your own experience illustrates it perfectly, that accidents like this can leave wounds that don’t always heal, that can last a lifetime…

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  2. Oh, Marcy. I feel like your note yesterday — not wanting to trivialize this experience by “liking!” it. Not wanting to shift from the momentous thing you witnessed (and were a small part of) by talking about how effectively your writing brought me into that witnessing.

    Because you did see a miracle.
    And — in the preceding moments — you also witnessed death, however briefly and mistakenly.

    Either of those will shift the earth under your feet. ❤

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    1. Right?! That’s exactly how I felt with your poem – “like” can feel like a trivialization of my reaction to your work, of the quality of your writing, or the the gravity of the situation you are describing. (So thank goodness for the comment section! 🙂 ) I guess Facebook has moved in the direction of giving folks more “response” options. Maybe WordPress will too one day.

      You are right, I did witness both a death and a miracle! As several other folks have mentioned, this event marks a big change for the woman (and for the man that hit her – his car was damaged to the point he could not drive away and so will likely face serious repercussions, at the very least financially) and that is another type of death in our lives.

      In Ruth Ozeki’s book Tale for the Time Being, there was a quote that really stuck with me about “every being that exists in the entire world is linked together as moments in time…” This was a moment in time that definitely became part of my time being.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Marcy. I read this while holding my breath, as if I, too, were witnessing the accident. After my own recent experience, I was expecting the worst. I am sooo glad it ended with minor injury. And I’m sooo glad you and the woman are OK. I so often feel like we are the ants scurrying about among the feet of giants.

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    1. Thank you, Jilanne. I thought of you and your experience actually – and it helped me do the opposite of what I normally do, which is keep it inside and just relive it over and over again. As I said to Ms. Lovell in another comment, writing this down and sharing it with you has really helped – the supportive comments and discussion has been so helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Being alive is so sensitive and so many people take it for granted…

    I truly believe the seat belt saved my life a couple of years ago…and gravity. It was December (4 days before Christmas), 4:30pm and already pitch black, going home during a freezing rain storm. We were driving northbound on a road, 10 minutes away from home, at crawling speeds because of rain and possible black ice ahead. I had to turn left. As I touched the gas to merge into the left lane the front tire caught on black ice…Car spun around, I was now facing southbound, and soft shoulder pulled the car in the ditch. I was alone in the car. I landed upside down. In the process of falling over, my whole body followed the way the car was going and this way the air bag did not hit me in the face and my head was not banged onto anything. Took me a second to collect myself and understand the position I was in and free myself from the seat belt (which was absolutely tight to my chest – thank God). Something told me to put the car in park and turn it off right away… A lady and her daughter came to help and what the lady in your story said I remember saying to her. I drive a 4X4 and the passenger side was absolutely done – the metal all squished in and the windows all broken (the ditch had big rocks for better draining). To this day I tell people about it and how a miracle happened that I came out of it unharmed… with very minor scratches and bruises. My grandmother told me someone up there watched over me (she really believes it was my grandfather).

    Seat belts saved my cousin too, many years ago. A terrible accident left 3 out of 5 passengers without their life. She was in the seat next to the driver and walked away with bruised ribs and a sore back. One of the passengers in the back (behind the driver) had his seat belt on and survived. The other two back passengers (no seat belts) and the driver (he had his seat belt on) did not survive.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to take over your post with my comment, but hopefully your readers and their listeners will take this as a learning experience and talk to everyone that listens about the importance of seat belts and slowing down.

    “Be kind.
    Drive like you care about life.
    Wear your seatbelt.”

    Very well said!!

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    1. Not at all, you didn’t take it over – your stories are powerful and add to it! Thank you for sharing them. It is so easy to go day after day, like you said, taking the fact that you are alive for granted. And then an event like this happens and it wakes you up. For the last few days I have been noticing colors and sounds and the way the breeze is ruffling the leaves, and I am grateful to be alive.

      I will tell you I have always had a fear of plunging off of an edge (be it a bridge or cliff or ditch) in a car, so I am right there with your grandmother!

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  5. This piece gave me the chills, Marcy. It does happen so instantaneously fast. I was almost hit once by a flying vehicle. There was not one thing I could have done about it. A couple feet closer and it would have been all over. Live well, and yes, wear your seatbelt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s incredible – thank God the car missed you! There was a video they used to show on the original “World’s Most Amazing Videos” show (back in the olden days when there was only one of those!) where an out of control vehicle is shown missing a police officer by mere inches – they used to slow the video down even so you could see how close it was. It is easy to forget that cars are massive speeding projectiles.

      And the same was true in the case of this car accident too, there wasn’t a thing this woman could have done, really.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! My heart was beating fast with this one.
    My brother and his family survived a similar accident…with seatbelts.
    But many drivers are crazy. And that’s beyond the ones that are just not paying attention. That’s why I don’t drive, and I’m a very tense passenger…(K)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always try to tell “crazy drivers” if you cannot have respect for your life, at least care for the life of the others in your path! … my step-mom won’t drive for the same reason

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I wish sometimes I didn’t have to drive, although I don’t consider myself a nervous driver. But I’m often a fairly nervous passenger and it has to do with the sense of control over the situation. But as this whole incident has reminded me, it is an illusion that we have complete control when we are in the drivers seat.

      Thank god for seatbelts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. An example for all those who are against government regulation. It’s worked for cars, it’s worked for cigarettes…why can’t we get it together for guns?

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      2. I agree. I do find guns to be the strangest of exceptions to the idea that the more sophisticated and dangerous the machinery the more it merits training and licensure…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jill. It was humbling to see how many people stopped to help! The freeways here in Southern California mostly feel like the “faceless masses”, but this incident really proved that doesn’t have to be true.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was reliving it over and over again. Writing it down and sharing it here has really helped with that and helped me feel more at peace. Several friends have commented that the woman in the car will be hurting in many ways for some time to come and I truly hope she finds peace and solace too.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. after you read my lengthy comment you’ll know why I say this… she will be hurting (in her own way) maybe for years to come. She might even avoid taking that route in her travels. Or avoid driving during that time of the day, or using that highway lane. It really takes a toll on your understanding of what actually happened and why….

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      2. Absolutely. I am sure I would do the same thing. I was only a witness and I am not eager to go that way on the highway again any time soon. I am also more weary of those drivers that weave in and out and change lanes at high speed – angry even – where before I honestly didn’t think that much about them.

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    1. A dear family friend of ours is a survivor of a horrible car accident that she should not have lived to tell about: it was 20 years ago, and I know she lives with the repercussions (health and otherwise) every day. I know that these events reverberate long after they are through.

      I am so appreciative you are here and that share your art and poetry with us every day.

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    1. You hear about things like this, but to see it right in front of you is whole new ballgame! I’ve thought a lot about it and engineering-wise it is a testament to the improved safety features of newer vehicles, but I don’t think that was the whole story. Even the firefighters showed up ready to cut people out of the wreck and were amazed to see this woman standing with a group of us on the shoulder.

      Liked by 1 person

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