“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Last night I came home and when I was well within the comfort of the four walls of my bedroom and had settled into the warmth of my bed I heard a loud “Bang”, actually two loud “Bangs” outside my condo and I thought
“ohhhh, that doesn’t sound good. “
The last time I heard bangs like that a man had slid his truck into and punctured through the sign at the entrance of the subdivision across the street.
So I looked out my window and sure enough saw the aftermath of a traffic accident.
Two trucks had collided sending one into the fence of the neighboring community hall and the other spinning in the middle of the intersection. Both drivers had opened the doors of their respective vehicles and walked away (thank God), but the trucks were completely destroyed.
And I was mesmerized for the entire hour it took to report, check for injuries and clean up the accident. And from my third floor window I could watch everything from a detached, “safe” point of view.
First of all it gladdened my heart to see so many other drivers stop and offer assistance. There was no need for my flannels and I to call emergency or get in the way. There must have been at least fifteen people on their phones, or directing traffic, or stopping to offer their perspective of what they witnessed.
After a while, however, more people arrived, the morbidly curious it seemed, and were bothersome rather than helpful. But by then the police had arrived and sent them on their way.
Second the organization of emergency services was commendable. It did seem to take a long while before the police arrived, but the ambulance and the fire department were there within ten minutes. The strategic positioning of vehicles, the roles taken on by each person, even the tow away and cleanup seemed scripted and therefore controlled.
And I know why I so intrigued and wanted to watch…because when you’re an unwilling participant in an accident, in the middle of it all, you miss everything. Forces are acting upon you and it’s a chaotic, maniacal blur.
Or so it seems.
Confusion, hyperventilation and pain are what you notice.
And then the smell. Burning rubber and hot metal.
And all you want to do is climb through the chaos and observe from a safe vantage point. You want to know EXACTLY what happened without emotion and fear clouding the reality of the moment.
And I got a chance to do so, even though the circumstances causing my accident were different and I still don’t know what exactly the seconds before and the impact itself looked like, at least now I know what the aftermath could have been like.
And it brings closure, in a way (finally two years later) and
satisfies a hole left by curiosity and feelings of being out of control.