The shiny gold car was two lanes to my right when I noticed it swerving in and out of its lane. It did not slow down or stop as it pulled off the road, and the message was clear that something was drastically wrong as it pulled farther up the road, riding the side of a hill before coming back down to the shoulder of the road again. Still, at top speed, the car road along the shoulder until it drove off the grass and took out an enormous hollow sign pole, the kind that overhangs the highway letting you know what the next three exits are. When that enormous industrial pole went flying through the air, I left my lane and drove up on the grass to get as far away as possible. And I wasn't the only one. Five other witnesses also watched in horror as the car became air born, doing a full flip in mid-air before landing in a ditch full of trees and branches.
I can't believe I just saw that, was all I could think.
Six of us stopped our vehicles and simultaneously pulled out phones, bombarding 9-1-1 with emergency calls. We all waited for traffic to slow down so we could cross the busy highway and made our way towards the crumbled car.
"What exit is the accident? Were you heading north or south?" the dispatcher asked.
"North. No, SOUTH. Noooo...NORTH. Definitely north! The victim is getting out of the car! He's ALIVE!"
We stood aghast as a young man crawled out of the wreckage on his hands and knees, and miraculously, stood up. He asked us how long he had been in the wrecked car for, and we told him it all just happened. He had no recollection at all of the accident. "I must have blacked out." He told us it was a brand new car, and started to cry. Someone lent him a phone so he could call his wife, and we all stood around waiting for the police and an ambulance, telling him how amazing it was that he is a) alive, and b) not more badly hurt than he was. The young man, visibly traumatized, had little to say except for repeatedly lamenting the loss of his new car and wedding ring. I was reasonably sure his wife wouldn't care.
The witnesses compared notes. We had all thought that the man was trying to pull off on the side of the road, but quickly switched to wondering whether a heart attack or seizure was taking place. We all told the man that we couldn't believe he was walking away from the wreck. The young man's face crumpled in tears once again as he noted that it was a brand new car.
Soon, the local police arrived, and the state police arrived, an ambulance, and a fire engine. Two of the witnesses left, and four of us stayed, speaking to police and lending the man our phones. The young man had only been able to reach a succession of voice mails and had not spoken anyone in his family, a terrible irony considering the dozens of ways we use technology to communicate these days. As the EMTs transferred him to a gurney, the young man continued to shout phone numbers at me that reached only more voice mails. Finally, I made contact with his mother. Soon after, I left, late for my destination and a little shaken.
I recounted this to a wise woman I know who said it best: "I hope all the people who were supposed to get messages from this really got it. It takes an awful lot to get the attention of some people."
Wise words, indeed. And something for all of us to think about. Is God trying to get my attention?
Follow up: The young man, whose name is Robert, called me that evening having gotten my number from his mother's caller ID. Having no recollection of the accident, he was seeking details about what happened, and amazingly survived with only a concussion, bruised ribs, and some scrapes. He was not wearing his seat belt.