Saturday, August 20, 2011

Split Second

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.


Fran said...

I am so sorry to hear this. Sending wishes for your grandaughter's recovery and thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry, Susan. Thoughts and prayers for all involved.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry, Susan. Thoughts and prayers for all involved.

Bridgett said...

Wait, this is a NOW thing? How horrifying, for you, for the girls, for all the families.

Bridgett said...

Because what I was going to say is that I am always the driver. Mike and I get in the car, I drive. Back in high school, I drove Johnny around all the time too.

Anonymous said...

My prayers for your grandaughter and your family. Such sorrow and heartbreak for all the families.


Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you and to all the families of the children involved in that 'accident'.
jill in Ontario

Rita said...

How sad for the family of the young man who died. And how frightening for those who survived. Healing prayers going up for your granddaughter, Susan.


Dona said...

Just saw your post on Facebook, Susan. This is chilling -- the details. Glad your beautiful granddaughter is going to be okay, so sorry for the families of the young men. What a frightening experience for everyone involved. Glad my kids are still at home for the summer so I can hug them both as soon as they wake up.

Susan said...

Thank you, everyone. I've never had an experience like that, thank heavens, and can't imagine what it was like for her. The physical healing will take quite a while, but her youth (20) is in her favor. At my age, if I broke both my legs they'd have to send me off into the sea on an ice floe.

crystal said...

So sorry to hear this. How is your grandaughter doing? I hope she recovers quickly. Prayers.

Indigo Bunting said...

And now I am finally here, after seeing news on Facebook. Susan, I'm so sorry, and I'm so relieved your granddaughter is alive. And your point on women in vehicles being driven by men is fascinating, worth thinking about...

You are all in my thoughts.

Helen said...

Oh, what a tragedy. I'm so sorry Susan...

Susan said...

Thanks, guys. Last night Lizzie was transferred from the hospital to a rehab facility, where they'll have her on a busy schedule of physical and occupational therapy. Boy, they move them out of hospitals quickly these days. The driver is conscious and talking, condition upgraded from critical to serious. As I said, we are so lucky.

Mali said...

I'm so sorry Susan.

Young people sadly have no concept that they might be mortal ... until it is too late. I'm so glad it's not too late for your grand-daughter. And such an interesting comment on women letting men drive. I'm thinking about that.

Eulalia Benejam Cobb said...

I hope your granddaughter is recovering well, both physically and emotionally. So wise of her to wear her seat belt.

crystal said...


How is your granddaughter doing now?

Susan said...

Thanks, all. Lizzie is doing amazingly well. She's getting around with a walker, walking short distances and getting herself out to the porch. She was happy to make an omelet for her breakfast the other day. Pain is exhausting, so she tires easily. But she gets a little better every day. I appreciate your comments and concern. xo