-One of the Scariest Experiences of my Life
thought i would write to you about one of the scariest experiences of my life….
we finish a ridiculously fun show at tupelo music hall a week ago saturday. my buddy charlene and i decide to head up to portland where we will be spending superbowl sunday with friends. we are driving along 95 in maine…
a car speeds by us on the right hand side...fast...swerving. charlene, who's driving at the time, says something like, "that guy's wasted!"
literally 10 seconds later the car suddenly makes a sharp left in the middle of the highway, and plunges head-on into the guardrail separating our side of the highway from that of the oncoming cars.
they must have been doing 85.
the car is demolished.
half of the engine block ends up on the other side of the highway, while the rest of the car bounces halfway across our side of the highway and lays there....dead to the world...in the middle lane...crumpled...in pieces.
charlene pulls the truck over. we decide that she is gonna call 911, which leaves me with the duty of heading to the car to see if there are survivors.
it’s cold and dark. there are pieces of car scattered all over the highway. i curse myself for only having flip-flops.
i'm sure that whomever was driving the car is dead or mangled. i'm praying there was no one else in the car...
as i open the door to get out of our truck, i swear out loud.
not sure why it is but somehow the profanity gives me the strength to put one foot in front of the other.
i've never seen violent death before. i've never seen really serious injury. i'm hoping i can be brave enough to help whomever is in that car. i know as i walk to the car, that when i look inside, my life will never be the same.
i say it a little louder. stupid perhaps, but it's giving me the strength to continue to move forward.
as i'm walking away from our truck, i hear charlene has connected with the folks at 911, and take solace in the face that she is peppering the poor operator with f-bombs as well...
as i'm walking toward the crumpled car, my fear of witnessing violent death is equaled now by my fear of the fact that cars are racing by, swerving at the last minute and narrowly avoiding the wreck. i mean, this car is completely totaled and there are no lights... no flames...nothing. just black mangled metal in the middle lane of a black highway, and the black cold night all around.
i wait 15 yards from the crash site as three trucks speed by, one literally almost grazing the dead pile of metal.
i'm terrified that there is about to be another crash, yet somewhere in the dark, cowardly corners of my mind i realize that the passing cars are keeping me from getting to the wreck, and the longer they keep passing, the longer i can avoid the inevitable.
finally the last truck passes. no more cars on the road.
i walk up to the side of the cold, crushed car....to the driver's side window facing the oncoming traffic.
the window is foggy, though amazingly intact, and i can see that the airbags have been deployed.
i see a hint of movement.
the driver isn't dead!!
i am both relieved and terrified, as this now means that whomever is in the car could get crushed at any moment by the next passing car.
gotta get whomever's behind that wheel out. fast.
i try the handle. not locked!
my heart is racing.
the door opens a crack and i force it open the rest of the way.
the driver is moving...barely.
amazingly, they both look to be intact. no blood. no limbs at awkward angles. a young, tall, blond, skinny guy driving, and a pretty brunette gal in shotgun.
a car speeds by...feels like inches away...i feel the wind as it passes, and jump as small bits of scattered debris fly around my feet.
"we're all gonna fuckin die..." i think to myself.
seems like our truck sitting there with hazards on, 20 yards away isn't even giving people pause for thought.
my trucker-mouth mind knows no bounds right now.
the driver is stirring. i lean into the car and put my hand on his shoulder.
"you've been in an accident. you're going to be ok, brother."
he looks up at me dazed.
(good, looks like no neck injury...got that goin for us)
i see the blinding lights, then feel the wind of another passing car.
i try to keep my panic to a minimum for the sake of the folks i'm tryin to help.
"gotta get you outa that car," i say, trying to sound unworried.
"wait a sec" he slurs, trying to gather his senses.
i can't tell if he's drunk, loopy from the accident, or both.
"no time brother, we're in the middle of a highway right now...gotta get you safe"
he seems to understand.
i reach in and help him with the seatbelt. his arms seem to be working ok.
"any pain anywhere?" i ask as i prepare to help lift him out of the car.
"can you feel everything?"
these are questions i learned to ask watching my buddy jimmy in action. he's a firefighter...used to play bass with us.
one day we were driving along the highway and came to a crashed car...old lady...swerved off the highway...hit her head. i was amazed with how calmly he spoke to her...asking important questions to gather what information he could.
(jimmy - i owe you one! 1st round's on me next time we hang...)
(p.s. jimmy is also the fire-fighter in the miss hallelujah video, we weren't kidding with the sign that read "will play for heroes")
sorry. back to the story:
yup, he can feel everything.
that's all i need to hear.
i lift him more quickly than gently, out of the car. put his left arm around my shoulders and hold him with my right arm around his waist, trying to keep most of his weight on me.
while his limbs don't seem broken, they certainly aren't functioning very well at this point.
i jog him ten yards off the highway, and lay him down on the snow and grass.
as i turn back to the car, i hear the horn and wooosh for another passing car.
for some reason, this time i approach the car, i am less terrified.
i'm part of this is due to the the fact that i know what i'm going to find when i open that door.
i think part of it, honestly, is that we're now dealing with the car door facing away from on-coming traffic...seems less exposed or something. of course, this is ridiculous logic, because if the wreck gets hit, we're all dead anyway, regardless of what side of the car we happen to be on.
...maybe i'm calmer because i now know what i have to do, and am more focused...maybe it's because my body and brain are just getting used to the situation.
by the time i get to the car, she is conscious and moving.
"hey there." i say, trying to smile as if we're casually passing carts in the produce isle. "what's your name?"
she answers, but i can't for the life of me remember what she said.
"you ok? anything hurt?"
"my left foot hurts" she says
i look down. she's got boots on. nothing sticking out though.
another car speeds by, shaking everything.
"ok, well let's get you outa this car. then we'll check it out, k?"
she reaches up for me...seems way more "with it" than the driver. we stumble to the side of the road.
i sit her down next to the driver.
charlene gives me a nod from the truck...help on the way.
i begin to feel my limbs begin to shake....
i take a slow, deep breath of the cold piney air...
well, that's the exciting part.
we get them into our truck to wait in warmth and safety.
charlene and i watch in horror for the next 5 minutes as another 5 passing cars almost take out the wreck.
a highway road worker who was nearby shows up with yellow flashing lights...relief!
then two fire trucks, an ambulance, and a police officer.
everyone that came to help was a badass...calm...down to business...
i stand outside our truck slowly letting my pulse rate slow down.
looking back at it all, i can't help but be amazed by how incredibly our society functions....
it was the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods, and within 10 minutes we had 10 professionals on site helping us out!
the guardrail kept a car doing 85 from speeding into the oncoming lane!
the car that was in the accident, incredibly crumpled in such a way as to allow both passengers to walk away relatively uninjured!!
but the thing that blows me away the most, and the thing that this little adventure helped me realize, is that everyday they go to work, EMT's, firefighters, and cops are ready to face this stuff, and much worse.
say what you will about the declining state of the american economy, services, spirit, values....you can be almost anywhere within the 3.79 million square miles of this country, get into trouble, and be confident that the help you need is on the way...
i'm feeling lucky to be living where we live, surrounded by heroes everyday.
but mostly i am feeling grateful....
....grateful i didn't puke all over the driver.
p.s. did i mention it was their first date?