Father's Day, a wreck, and an angel
June 22, 2011The top spins on a polished granite dining room table. It spins so fast it appears motionless. The granite is white. I think I hear a noise in the background – a faint high pitched almost imperceptible whine.
I am traveling with my youngest son for Father's Day. We head for the beach. I don't have time but we're going anyway.
In the distance our vision is drawn to a cloud of dust and a white object moving at a high rate of speed across both lanes in front of us – maybe 300 yards. We're traveling west. It's traveling east. It's on our side.
Our road is completely empty. We just stare, my fifteen year old and I. It's early – maybe mid morning. We're the only car in sight traveling about seventy miles an hour down Ga. 300.
Our route is a new divided highway – two lanes each way with a broad grassy median in the middle – maybe 20 yards wide. On either side of the road stretches thick, flat heavily seeded grass shoulders and then a wall of dark hardwoods. It has rained recently. The grass is so green that it almost hurts our eyes.
It is remote. There are no mail boxes, no buildings, no signs, no lights, and no sound except our car, the wind, and the bright blur up ahead.
The white Chevrolet pickup is traveling east-bound along side the west bound lane on the shoulder. The driver is asleep. Somehow he has managed to cross his two lanes, the median, our two lanes and now he is driving in the grass. The truck is traveling at least 70 but probably more. The passenger inside the truck is also sleeping.
They are both carpenters. Both young men work hard. Life is very tough in the North Florida panhandle. The economy has not been kind.
The top continues to spin but I can see it's motion now.
As the front tires of the truck respond to the now waken driver and touch the pavement, the truck begins to spin uncontrollably across our two lanes and into the median. The passenger sleeps still. The drivers' face however, is ashen and the top begins to wobble.
Into the air the white truck flips over the median and then again over the two east-bound lanes and onto the grass where it lifts off yet a third time, into the air.
With the third flip and before the truck flips the fourth and final fifth time, we see the passenger separate from the truck as if he has been shot out of a canon at a circus. He lands in the grass that has grown heavy from the rain and fertile soil. His flight has been just a blur, spanning most likely the smallest fraction of a second. The truck comes to a rest finally, upside down in the mouth of a culvert.
As my fifteen year old son dials 911 I brake hard into the median and run towards the truck without looking back. "No fire" is all I can think. "Please do not let this truck burn."
The passenger's breathing is labored and short. It is guttural and weak. He lies unconscious on his back. His cut-off jeans come down to just below his knees and his soiled tee shirt is without blood. There is no blood. He has a crew cut and his hair is brown. His complexion is pale but his cheeks are rosy – bright red. The grass where he lies is thick and forgiving.
The driver is out of the truck. He is, I am so startled, ok. He does not know where he is, what happened, or that his friend lies close by. He staggers, dazed.
I hear sirens and see a Sheriff and then another. Several cars stop. A nurse runs up and bends over the unconscious crew-cut young man with the ruddy complexion. There is no smoke. There is no blood. He does not move.
We pick up saws from the road. People run up, anxious and frightened. "What happened" they ask. I spot more tools in the drainage ditch. We pull the heavy metal work box that used to be attached to the bed of the pickup off the highway to the side of the road. I stare again at the pickup with its wheels and shredded tires pointed up at the sky and roof crushed like a peanut and cannot imagine that anyone could have survived this carnage.
Thirty minutes down the road I ask my son if he wants to stop for a Coke but he just stares at me. Then I remember that he doesn't drink soft drinks and hasn't for years. So we keep driving.
"What were the odds that we would have been at that spot on that road at that time" my son asks. "About ten million to one," I answer, "exactly the same odds that would have placed us just three hundred yards further up the road when that white truck began to flip."
We drive on in silence and I talk to an angel. "It's been a very long time since I've needed you," I say. "You've kept me out of harms way so many times now and rescued me so many times that I used to think that you lived on my shoulder. You've always made sure that I haven't been three hundred yards further down the road."
I look at my son next to me and wonder what I've done to deserve such protection and how I could possibly have earned it. He looks up at me and smiles. The top freezes. And I know the answer.
The remainder of our drive passed without incident and my Father's Day was filled with joy.