As many of you know, we’ve spent the last two weeks traveling through the Midwest, saying our goodbyes before we head for Germany. We spent time with my family, Israel’s family, countless friends, our friends in Kansas City. While there are stories to tell from all those things, the one I’m writing about tonight took up the smallest amount of time and yet it’s the story I feel compelled to tell. It’s not very well written as I originally wrote it for a message board I’m on. I don’t have the heart to write the whole thing with description and “artistic flair” so you’ll just have to bear with it.
We left Kansas City Saturday morning, planning on stopping in Northern Mississippi for the night. We stopped for dinner in Granada and after driving around town looking for a place to eat, we decided that eating was all we really wanted to do in that town. Israel felt pretty good after eating so we headed back onto the road. I slept for a couple of hours and woke up about 10:30. Jael fell asleep about 11 o’clock and at 11:30 Israel almost hit a man standing in the middle of the highway. Israel swerved to miss him and slammed on the brakes, pulling the car off the road. We locked the doors, fearing some sort of scam or just your run of the mill deranged person waling down the middle of the highway in the middle of the night. Israel backed down the road until we saw the man we almost hit, huddled over the body of another on the shoulder. Israel jumped out of the car, telling me to lock the door, as it could still be a scam. He ran across the highway, knelt beside the fallen man and then ran back to tell me that there was blood and crap everywhere and to try to flag down someone with a cell phone. He went back across the highway to attempt to keep cars away from the shoulder. I pulled out our flashlight and shown it on Israel, who had pulled off his black t-shirt and was jumping up and down, waving his arms.
Now, I would think that a glow in the dark white chest (as Israel definitely has a farmer’s tan), jumping up and down, would be kind of noticeable, and yet, cars continued to speed by, barely moving over to avoid him. He had to keep jumping back as cars sped by. Finally a man pulled over onto my side of the road and told me that 911 had been called and were on their way.
I went over to Israel’s side of the road and used the flashlight and waved one of my t-shirts (I was wearing a white one and a light gray one) to attempt to keep cars off the two men at our feet. The uninjured man spoke no English and was sobbing over the other, who was also crying.
The police finally showed up and so Israel and I went back to right side of the road. The policemen attempted to talk to the uninjured man but could not. So they stood around waiting for the ambulance and waving traffic around the morbid scene.
I am not EMT trained. I’ve had only basic first aid. The injured man was not in the road so he shouldn’t have been moved. But he was in shock and they should have put a blanket over him. It was drizzling rain and the man should not have had to lie there in the rain with nothing but a t-shirt to keep him warm. A blanket, a slicker, a frickin’ garbage bag would have been a better gesture than just leaving him lying in the rain with his friend his only guard against the elements.
As I stood in the drizzle and watched the morbid scene across the highway and tried not to breath too deeply through my nose, I couldn’t help but wonder at the sheer and utter indifference of the police and highway patrol. Do I think these two guys were probably illegal immigrants? Yes, I do. Do I think they are going to get treated at the hospital on the State’s dime? Yes, I do. Do I think they are still human beings and deserve to be treated as such? Yes, I do. As I stood there fuming, the injured man twitched, pulling his legs up toward his chest. His lower leg seemed to bend unnaturally and I felt my dinner, which had been mediocre to begin with, churn in my stomach. I turned away and warned Israel that the dinner he’d so thoughtfully bought me might end up on the ground. He patted my shoulder and led me back to the car. He’d bought a Black and Mild cigar (or cigarillo? I don’t know what it was but it was between the size of a cigar and a cigarette) at the last gas station. He’s planned on saving it to celebrate being home but it seemed fate had a different purpose for the little guy. Israel lit the end and breathed deeply, blowing smoke out into the rain. I took a drag and it was as though the last seven years of being cigarette free just fell away. I pulled the smoke deep into my lungs and let it out with a sigh. I passed it back to Israel and leaned against the car. As the ashes fell to the wet ground, the weight of the tragedy before me fell away as well. It was still horrible and frightening but it was no longer unbearable. My hands, which had previously been as shaky as my insides, settled down and my heart no longer felt as though it would beat itself out of my chest.
The ambulance finally arrived. The EMT’s, and I kid you not, sauntered over to the injured man. Again, I don’t have EMT training and almost all of my knowledge (if you can call it that) of ambulances is from Hollywood, and yet I feel there should have been some urgency in their movements. But there wasn’t. So they asked the friend if he spoke any English and he said no and pointed to the injured man. One EMT squatted by the injured until another brought over a neck brace and they got his neck secured and then rolled him onto a back board (in a manner that didn’t look “right” to me but again, I don’t really know) and then onto the stretcher and then into the back of the ambulance.
What I expected to happen was for the ambulance to take off, sirens blaring but instead they sat there. The uninjured stood in the headlights of the ambulance, tears running down his face, holding his hand awkwardly, as though unsure what to do with his friend’s blood upon it. He wandered around to the back of the ambulance and stood at the open doors, watching. The policemen and highway patrol men, at the front of the ambulance were laughing and joking, about what I do not know but I hurt for the young man who could, no doubt, hear their callous laughter.
The people who had hit the injured man had stopped up the highway and as the ambulance drove away, the police moved their cars up to the other car. Israel drove up and stopped by them to make sure we were good to go. He told them we were the first responders and wanted to know if they needed any kind of statement of anything from us. They asked again if we had seen the man get hit. He answered no and they said they really didn’t need us anymore. No thank you. No sorry you had to see that all. Nope. Just a, “Nope, we don’t need you anymore.”
We drove away, finishing about three-fourths of our cigarillo and tossing the remainder out the window. The highway was dark and there seemed to be a person huddling in ever shadow and under every shrub we saw. We pulled into our apartment parking lot at about one-thirty in the morning and breathed deep sighs of relief. Jael had, blessedly, slept through the entire tragedy and remained asleep as I laid her in her bed and covered her with her quilt. I brushed her hair off her cheek and kissed her baby soft skin.
I thought I would have a hard time falling asleep but it wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that I had any bad dreams and those were quickly shook off. It’s amazing to me how resilient the human mind is. One minute we are driving along, having some inane conversation, the next we are in one of the most intense forty-five minutes of my life, and the next after that, I’m putting my daughter to bed in her safe and comfortable bed and going to sleep myself.
So that’s the rest of the story. Sorry it’s such a downer. I wish I had a good ending for it but I’ve been able to find no information on the accident or the men involved. I’ll probably keep looking but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.