The News Tribune logo

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Waiting For Impact

How do you feel on a morning that you shouldn't really be here?  Let me tell you.  I'm looking at the tide rippling its way out of Joe's Bay, the sun playing peekaboo in and out of clouds scudding across the Sound, looking at leaves trembling in the breeze, and light of the morning playing through my suncatchers, like a moving stained glass window...and I'm feeling so lucky, so happy to be here, in this crazy world.  It is so good to be alive and not broken!

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!


PRS in Tacoma said...

Thank you for communicating the essence of that experience: the helplessness, the fear, the grief & anger for the young man whose carelessness might have killed you & your daughter.

Yes, the beauty of "the day after" is one that all of us who have survived surgery have felt. Each day is a gift. Thank you, too, for the photo of the suncatchers--beautiful!

Lorraine Hart said...

Thanks so much for commenting...from my daughter and myself.

Writing this post was both therapy, and an effort to reach people about our responsibility on the road. I hoped that readers might respond to a moment of recognizing Life's beautiful fragility.

Yes indeed...on to the next day, a gift, a lesson, a sweet string of moments we're still here to polish. I'm so very glad you shared with us.

Oh I do love my suncatchers, made by artist and friend Jan Buday! Even on a grey day, the light coming through them makes colours dance...invaluable through Winter!

Mizu Sugimura said...

Your neighbors on this blog are also exceedingly grateful that you were not injured in this frightening moment on the highway. I would also concur that your account has both the immediacy and sensitivity reader PRS spoke of in their post. As always, you are a gifted writer and leave us all more richer for the experience!

Lorraine Hart said...

Wanting to get our groove back in the 'hood Mizu!