Have you ever witnessed a potential tragedy? A possible drowning? A landslide or avalanche? Someone choking? Well I witnessed my first one- a car accident to be exact.
Last Friday I was on my way to my parents’ house for some last minute wedding planning for the weekend. I had been driving for just over 2 hours, so I was getting somewhat fatigued and hungry. I decided to call my mom and ask if her and dad wanted to meet in town for dinner. She told me they already ate, so I was on my own for dinner. I decided last minute that I would just stop at the nearby gas station and pick up some taquitos. I pulled into the turn lane, came to a stop, and continued chatting with mom.
Next thing I knew, I heard tires squealing and a Jeep Wrangler speeding right into the back of the 2 stopped cars in the forward driving lanes at the stoplight caddycorner to my car. The driver of the Wrangler (who must not have been paying any kind of attention leading up to this moment) knew he wasn’t going to be able to stop in time (because he was driving way too fast), so right before impact, he jerked his wheel to the right, which caused his Jeep to flip over and land upside down. As I watched everything happen, almost in slow-motion, I frantically told mom I had to go. I apologized (for some reason) and just before hanging up, yelled, “I’m okay!”- my feeble attempt at calming her nerves as I knew she heard everything that had just happened.
Since I had just come from work, I wasn’t dressed to jump on-scene to help the driver as he was hanging, probably in shock, by his seat belt as his vehicle gushed fuel. I wanted to help, but I also needed to keep myself safe as well, so I stayed in my car and dialed 9-1-1. While on the phone with an emergency operator, I saw a man dressed in military fatigues rush over to aid the Jeep driver. I watched, surprised, that the driver was able to crawl out and walk over to the side of the road on his own. As I spoke with the operator, she asked if I saw the other drivers who were involved in the accident. I told her I saw one of the drivers out of her car, on the phone, but that the mangled Jeep blocked my view of the other car and driver. I figured one of the many witnesses that were out on the scene had/would attend to her.
Once I hung up with the operator, I contemplated my next move. Do I have a first aid kit in my car? No, but I have an overdose reversal kit.* That won’t help matters. I proceeded to follow the 2 cars in front of me and made the turn into the gas station, mainly to make room for the emergency vehicles that would soon be on the scene. The gas station was situated on top of a hill offering a birds-eye view of the accident. I watched as the other vehicles behind the damaged cars try and maneuver around and eventually the fire and EMS trucks start pulling up. I then noticed the lady in the second car that was hit from behind slowly open her door and climb out from the jungle of airbags that had instantly bloomed upon impact.
As I stood there watching, a crowd gathered around me asking what happened. Like a morbid story time, I offered a timeline of what I saw. As I was filling in the blanks to these curious strangers, it occurred to me: if I hadn’t talked with my mom about possibly having dinner and deciding to just turn off right then to grab gas station grub, I would have been one of those cars, or THE car the Jeep would have slammed into.
… 2 weeks before my wedding… That could have been me….
Yeah. I started crying.
Once my mind was settled (not so much my nerves) and the drivers were being transported off to the hospital, I called mom back. I told her everything that happened and confirmed that as I said previously, I was okay.
As I said at the beginning, I’d never experienced anything like this, so I wasn’t sure of the responsibilities I may have acquired being a witness. I decided to walk down to the scene and talk with an officer and offer up a statement of what I saw. He took down my info and thanked me for calling in and for sticking around.
Once the damage was all but cleared off the road and traffic started flowing again, I got back on the road, but not without fear. I became hyper-aware of my fellow motorists and my heart rate remained at a higher rate for the rest of my drive. That night I struggled to get to sleep as every time I closed my eyes, I saw the Jeep flipping over. I’m thankful that I was not more involved in the accident, but also thankful that I experienced (to a certain degree) this type of emergency to know what to do and how to react in such a traumatic situation.
* I live in an area that is unfortunately struggling through the opioid crisis here in the states. I also work in the healthcare field and have received training and overdose reversal supplies to use in an unfortunate event. I hope to never have to use it, but I’m glad I have it just in case.