This is not a poem; it's just the easiest way for me to think tonight.
One car, four young people, two nights ago.
An on-ramp to the interstate. A sharp curve. A heavy foot on the accelerator.
"We're going too fast," a girl in the backseat said.
And then the hatchback, never built for speed, rolled. Rolled so hard and fast that it took down a highway light pole.
Two young men in the front seat, neither wearing a seat belt.
The driver was ejected through the windshield. He lives, paralyzed and still comatose.
The passenger, known for his moves on the football field and his good humor, ends up in the back seat.
Except there is no back seat. There is no car—just a flattened, inverted, compressed mass of mangled metal and glass. He was killed instantly.
A stranger, an angel, appears and calls 911.
Rescue crews arrive.
In what was once the back seat, the girls wore their seat belts. It takes 30 minutes to cut the first girl out of the car. She has a broken tibia and other, hopefully minor, injuries.
It takes more than two hours to extricate my granddaughter. She has two broken legs (femurs), four broken ribs, a shoulder injury, and many cuts and bruises.
An EMT said it was the worst accident he'd ever seen.
All in a split second.
All in a reckless, irreversible, life-altering split second.
When Princess Diana died, someone wrote an essay I wish I'd saved. It was about women in vehicles driven by men, and how we seem to be hard-wired to relinquish control in that situation. It talked about how Diana, one of the most powerful women in the world, sat unbelted in the Mercedes that killed her, and how even though they traveled at seriously excessive speed, she never spoke up, never demanded that the driver slow down, never ordered him to stop. Do we trust men to take care of us? Is that it? Do we see automobiles as male territory, a place for us to recede into the background (literally)?
I can remember feeling that way. I can remember being incapable of speaking up, of criticizing the driver, of not wanting to risk......I don't know what I thought I risked, or why I didn't know what I risked by remaining silent. But that was a long time ago.