The Wreck

Posted on August 17, 2014


One, of course, never expects to wreck. Here we are speaking largely of car wrecks. One expects even less to be in some other wreck, a plane wreck for example, or a wreck at sea.

Wrecks, like tornadoes, happen to other people.

Some wrecks, like the wreck of the “unsinkable” SS Titanic in 1912, seem to live forever in the collective memory of people and nations. Movies are made, deep sea divers film a ghostly documentary, and the pathos of man trying to control nature is once again on display.

Last August, on our way down to Florida to visit our pilot son, we headed south from Montgomery on Highway 231, pulling our 30’ RV, our home-away-home for the next ten days as we wandered down the Gulf coast of Florida.

231 is an easy four lane drive all the way to the Florida line. My wife Louise was driving down a very quiet part of the highway, with a wide grass median between the north and south lanes.

I saw the car in front of us swerve a bit to the left, and I thought, “the jerk is talking on his cell phone, or texting, or looking up a number, and he’s sure getting close to the side of the highway.”

Sure enough, the car’s front tire caught the side of the road and pulled his tires off to the left and I watched, probably with my mouth open, as his car started to carom off the pavement and into the median.

Now what?

“Watch it,” I yelled at Louise, but she too was transfixed. I briefly looked into the right view mirror and the right lane was clear behind us.

“Get on over to the right,” I told her, trying to keep my voice steady and even.

The driver, now plowing up the median, tried to correct, and when he did, he overcorrected to the right and over he went, tumbling down the highway, right in front of us. We were probably going at least 65 mph, the speed limit.

It all seemed to be happen in slow motion.

Louise started to slow down, slowly pulling to the right so she wouldn’t jackknife our big RV rig.

In front of us, it was like some horrible show. The car tumbled down the road, and, as their car tumbled, a man was thrown from the passenger side. He popped up in the air and landed on his back. As we passed close by I thought I saw flames break out inside the car.

“Quick, quick, stop, I think there’s a fire,” I shouted, jumping out and running ran back to the wreck.

Some guys working on the highway were already at the wreck, looking at the man who had been thrown out as the car tumbled. Nobody touched him as he writhed in pain, blood coming from cuts on his head and arms. He was Chinese.

The driver was standing, talking rapidly in Chinese, and other passers-by on the northbound lanes had stopped also and calls were going in on cell phones.

Louise kneeled down beside the injured man and started quietly to talk to him, putting her hand on him to comfort him. Everyone else just stood around, looking kind of shocked like all of us. No one touched the man except for Louise.

The wrecked vehicle didn’t catch fire or explode, thanks be to God. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to reach inside and pull out a passenger from flames, but, lucky for both, they escaped.

An off duty EMT stopped, pulled on some latex gloves, and started to examine the poor Chinese victim. After a few more minutes, an emergency vehicle made it to the scene. We left after the EMTs started to pack up the victim to transport him to a hospital.

I still can see the car turning over and over, dust and grass flying up, and then out of the top the young passenger came flying. He was lucky. He could have been crushed or pinned under the wreck.

One counts one’s blessings occasionally, especially when you get down and feel gloomy, depressed, into your “pity party” self. It’s terrible to see a wreck, even worse to be in one, but it does add some perspective to your little, often self-centered, world.

The only thing that disappointed us was that no one, other than Louise, would touch and comfort the poor guy thrown from the car, groaning and bleeding by the side of the road.

I pray he recovered well, but I wonder about the phobias we have developed, apparently surrounded by bacteria, germs, and dreaded killer viruses. Somehow we have grown apart from each other as human beings.

I understand the risks and dangers of touching others in a world filled with dangers, but we lose some of our humanity in the effort to stay safe. Sometimes staying safe is not what it is all about.

Posted in: Life in America