I went to visit a young man who had been in a car accident and he was very surprised to see me. His parents were there, and they weren’t sure why I had appeared out of nowhere, and they were not very happy with some of the things I had to say. In twenty-five words or less I reminded him he could have been killed, he could have killed someone else, and road construction projects are very poor locations for practicing weaving in and out between cones. His version of how it happened wasn’t like mine, but in the end, he confessed he had been playing at sixty miles an hour.
His father followed me out, and that kept me from having to say it from of his mother, and that was one of his friends got there before the police and picked up the pot the kid had been smoking when he wrecked, and my description of the young man and his car was enough to turn the father’s face a very dark and angry red.
I was much younger then, and the DUI laws were not as tough as they are today, and that is why I didn’t tell the cops any of this. Indirectly, I knew the young man’s father and he had a reputation of being hardnosed yet honest. I was not interested in getting anyone arrested. I just didn’t want it to happen again.
It does happen again, and there isn’t too many long transportation construction projects that do not have accidents. I took photos of one, because I was asked to take photos, and the scene showed long grooves in the shoulder of the road where the truck had skidded, upside down, for over a hundred feet. I took photos of the beer bottles, and there were many of them, and I took photos of the truck. I didn’t take photos of the cab of the truck because it looked like someone had gone off the deep end in there with a paint gun full of red paint.
I handed an EMT a sock once that still had a foot in it. The guy was speeding moments before.
Every wreck is a person, or a group of people, and somewhere there is a family for that person, or families for that group of people who have been brought together by tragedy. I’ve only had to call one mother to tell her that her son had been in an accident, and that was because he asked me to, and I assumed she would put together the fact he was able to ask me to call, but as soon as I said the word “accident” she lost it. An extremely pretty sixteen year old lost control of her car and wound up in the ditch and she gutted her brand new car on a minor drainage structure. I watched it all from a distance, and she got out of the car hysterical. That’s the difference between men and women: males usually are mad and women as usually scared when it comes to car accidents. This girl cried and cried, and she hung on to me and cried some more. Her father got there and he was relieved she was okay, but who the hell was this man his little girl was hanging all over, huh???? I thought he was getting my name and all that sort of information to call my boss and praise me for helping out, but later I realized he thought she and I were together.
I’ve had someone tell me the life story of a loss daughter, of all her achievements and aspirations and little things like the name of her teddy bear. It was painful, terribly horribly painful to stand there and watch someone relive that life cut short, but she had to tell someone and I was the person who was there when it happened. With her left arm crooked in midair, as if she were afraid of some invisible demon near her, the former mother spoke hurriedly, as if the memories were already fading, if her only child was already in the past and as I stood there trying to understand what was happening the woman began to throw up, violently, loudly, and part of her soul left her body, in great heaving wracks.
The wreck a week ago tonight left the driver of a truck injured and I was going to go talk to him. I want to make sure he was okay, but I was mad, too. I wanted to tell him in two minutes he would have been where we were working, and he rammed another semi- truck, and that was nothing compared to what would have happened if he had hit a worker. One of the EMT’s had told me he looked okay, that he would likely be out on the road again in a matter of time. I want to know if he had been drinking, if he had been high, or maybe just sleepy. I called the hospital and they wouldn’t tell me anything, not even his damn room number, and suddenly it hit me why they wouldn’t. I called a friend of mine in law enforcement and he told me the driver was dead.
There is no way I’ll ever know what happened now, and I’m sorry I was mad at him. I’m sorry I didn’t do more to help when I was there, even though there wasn’t much I can do anyway. The driver of the truck that got hit wanted me to call him as soon as I found out about the tox report, so I called him and told him the guy had died and he swore under his breath. Neither of us had anything left to say, but right before I hung up he asked if the guy had family, for a funeral, and I told him I’d check. That was one of the most civilized questions I have ever been asked, ever.