Yesterday was Anna's doctor's appointment, so we headed to West Seattle, then to a friend's house near Husky Stadium, for a visit. Traffic was beginning to build up for the afternoon as we merged onto 520, heading west towards I-5. The lane we were in came to a full stop from congestion up ahead. I braked and kept my eyes moving, as my father taught me, from front window to side mirrors and then the rear-view mirror.
What I saw made my heart go cold and heavy...and time slowed down to details, in sections of seconds. I made some kind of noise because Anna quickly turned in her seat. We both saw a small black car coming up on us...FAST! I wondered if this was to be the end, held the steering wheel, pushed my foot further down on the brake and closed my eyes, trapped, waiting for impact.
At the last possible moment, the young driver managed to swerve, missing us, but then lost control and smacked head-first, into the concrete median wall. I opened my eyes at the sound and saw back end of his car raise high in the air, as his head went into the deployed airbag. The line of cars in front of us began to move so I pulled a little further forward, allowing traffic room to pass through and told my daughter to call 911. In shock, Anna still kept her cool and gave the operator the situation and our location. Meanwhile, the young man got out of his car, dazed, with blood streaming from his nose.
Barely two minutes had passed but cars were now amassing behind and beginning to weave between his Chevy and our little Nissan. Anna relayed that to the 911 operator and asked if we should stay, as witnesses, or move. A car had stopped in the lane behind him and the people were talking to the young man, seeing if he was alright. The operator told Anna that she had her phone number and we should continue on home.
We talked about what just happened as we joined the southbound auto-flow out of Seattle, to 16 west and over the Narrows. We had to stop for prescriptions in Gig Harbor, and it was then we both began to feel the shock wear off and the oncoming tightness of our bodies' reactions. Anna told the woman filling her prescriptions what had happened and repeated what she had told me. She said, when she looked back at the car coming for us, she saw the guy was looking down in his lap and then suddenly looked up, just in time to pull at his wheel and spare us.
It was the woman behind the counter who suggested that might have meant the young man was texting as he drove.
This morning, my little world in the Aerie above Joe's Bay seems more beautiful than ever. I drink the view in and give my thanks for still being here. I hope that young man is alright, with nothing more than a broken nose. I hope he is grateful for living through the impact of this lesson. We are fragile beings, hurtling ourselves through the air inside these high-powered machines. Every move we make, every moment our eyes and mind stray from being Captain of the cockpit, we risk not only our own, but everyone's life on the road around us. This should be our first thought as we strap ourselves in.
Kudos and thanks go to the 911 operator who led Anna calmly through giving information and then instructed us to leave the scene. Indeed, this morning I give thanks for all 911 operators and First Responders. Bless you in your work...and in your commute!