Monday, May 02, 2005

Mangled Steel

I should start with an apology -- my blog photos are trapped inside my little Canon Elph. I could blame my supremely slow dial-up connection, or I could fess up to some weekend-loving laziness. Either way, perhaps I'll be able to post them on Wednesday.

While my first Nantasket Basket was felting away in my washing machine, I watched Big Fish. Interesting. Weird. Whimsical. And eternally married to a bit of nightmare-inducing trauma that occurred mid-movie.

I heard a crash and a scream outside my house. I ran to the window and saw a horrible car accident at the end of my driveway. I called 911. I sprinted out of the house and spotted horror. It was a head-on collision. The green Subaru was completely smashed from bumper to steering wheel. The light blue Toyota 4Runner was smashed from bumper to steering wheel. There were four people in the 4Runner, including a screaming 8-year-old girl in the backseat. A couple of my neighbors were there, directing traffic and checking on the status of the passengers. After looking into the 4Runner and seeing 4 people with all their blood still within their skin, I turned to the green Subaru. The one passenger was a 40-something man in a black uniform. He was barely conscious, bleeding from many places and unable to speak. Luckily his little green Subaru had functional airbags, or else I'd be looking at a dead body on the pavement. I ignored the foul-smelling smoke pouring out of the mangled steel that used to be the engine, and stuck my head in the broken window to talk to this man. He was a mess. I was afraid that he would die right in front of me. I was terrified that his last mental image would be my face. And yet, it was unconscionable that this man's last image would be the inside of his shattered windshield. As his head bobbed around and his eyelids tried to remain open, I begged him to stay with me. I asked if he could see me. A barely discernable nod. I told him my name and where I live.

Keep looking in my eyes, sir. Focus on me. Right here. I'm a young woman here to help you. You're going to be OK. I called 911 and the ambulance is on the way. I'm not going anywhere. I'll stay right here with you until the paramedics arrive. Wait, wait ... don't close your eyes. Focus right here on me. Look into my eyes. Stay with me now. Help is on the way.

[whisper] Where are my glasses?

I don't know, sir. I can't see them. Let me look around.

Amid the rubble, his glasses were sitting on the passenger seat, wedged between pieces of his dashboard. I reached across the blood and glass, pulled the glasses out, and handed them to him. They weren't broken. The lenses were very thick.

I see your badge, sir. Are you a police officer?

[whisper] Special forces, Boston.

You live up here?

Yes.

On your way to work?

Yeah. What happened?

I don't know, sir. You were in a bad car accident, but everyone seems OK. Are you OK? No, please don't try to sit up. I want you to lean back. That's right. Stay right there. Just rest, sweetie. The ambulance is coming. Just rest. Rest. There you go. We're going to make sure that you're OK. You look great. Just keep your head back and rest. OK? Focus on me. I'm going to get you through this. We'll do this together, OK? Do you hear the sirens? That must be the ambulance now. That's good. They'll be here any minute now. No, no. You stay back. Lean back. Don't try to get up. They'll help you get out of the car. Yep, here they are. It's the Fire Department. They're going to help you get out of here.

At this point a huge man in a yellow uniform ran over to see the extent of the damages. He tried to get the car door open, but it wouldn't budge. They draped a white sheet over My Man, which looked like a shroud to my emotional mind. My logical mind recognized that this sheet would protect him from falling glass. As I stood on the curb, the fire fighters used a huge steel claw to pry the door open, and were finally able to move My Man out of the car, onto a stretcher and into an ambulance. Other stretchers carried off the occupants of the 4Runner.

After a few words with the neighbors, I ran inside to call my wife. She and my son were out running errands, and I feared her reaction if she came home to see 2 fire trucks, 4 cop cars and 2 ambulances in front of our house. She told me she was proud of me, and that she'd bring home some wine.

I sat in the window and watched the entire process. The ambulances leaving. The tow truck arriving. The cops managing traffic. The rubberneckers craning out their windows. The tow truck driver hoisting the 4Runner onto the flat bed, picking up various bumpers and bits of steel and tossing them into the front seat of the green Subaru, sweeping the glass up off the road and tossing it into the Subaru, pouring sand onto the areas of pooled oil, and dragging the heaps of mangled steel away.

After the final cop left and the cars started passing the house at 60mph again, it was an odd feeling. Like a dream. My wife and son came home, unloaded groceries from the car and presented me with 3 bottles of wine. She had only my story to hear, but no mental picture of the accident. But I have a vivid mental picture that no amount of red wine could erase. Very much like a nightmare, no amount of explanation could convey how truly terrifying this experience was. And yet, I am so filled with joy that I was able to talk to My Man in those critical moments.

I called the hospital later last night, and they told me that all the motor vehicle accident admissions from the day had already been released. Thank God. My Man will live. And I'll probably never know who he is.

1 comment:

Engineer Anonymous said...

You may never know his name, but you did a very good thing.