Shattered Turquoise Glass
I thought I was looking at a dead person. I feared the worst. I had just witnessed a horrific car accident and I didn’t know what to do.
It was a boring Monday afternoon. The sun was hidden by an unending gaggle of gray clouds, making for a chilly summer day in Omaha. I wasn’t dressed appropriately, lacking a jacket on a chilly, sun-less day, and I wanted to get home quickly. I’d been out running errands all day and was relieved to finally be done driving around town. Music from my car stereo eased the long trek home.
The journey was familiar, my usual route back to my home in Benson. As I traveled east on Fort Street, my favorite song came on via shuffle. I turned up the volume as “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem filled the car.
The tunes carried me away and I let my mind wander. My thoughts were occupied with anxiety over an upcoming work event. My mind floated from one thought to the next, knowing I wouldn’t need to make another turn for several blocks.
I thought a car had exploded.
Unsure of what exactly I’d just seen, I slammed on my brakes to avoid crashing into whatever wreckage sat in front of me. My vehicle skidded to a halt a few feet away from a damaged vehicle facing the wrong direction. I threw on my hazard lights and threw open my door. I raced to the wreckage to check on the drivers.
The wreckage was like something out of a movie. The ground was littered with shattered turquoise glass. Debris of all shape and size strewn about.
The vehicle closest to me, a black SUV, was in relatively good condition upon first glance. The airbags were deployed, making it nearly impossible to see inside the vehicle.
“Hello? Can anyone hear me?” I yelled as loud as I could, hoping to receive a response from someone within the SUV. No response.
Panicked, I spun around to see the remains of the other vehicle. What was left of a blue Mustang sat a few feet away, smoke from the engine rising to the clouds above.
My eyes locked on the driver. I thought for certain I was looking at a dead person. An unconscious young man sat motionless in the driver’s seat.
I dashed over to the driver’s side of the vehicle, unsure of my plan. As I drew closer, I noticed a large gash on the young man’s head. I froze.
Unsure of what to do, I fumbled around in my pocket for my phone. My shaking hands withdrew the phone and I attempted to dial 9-1-1. Those three simple digits never seemed so complicated. I couldn’t make sense of anything. The numerals on the dial screen were like hieroglyphics to me.
By this time, a passerby had stopped and joined the scene to help. I told them to call 9-1-1 as I returned to the SUV.
I saw movement within the SUV. The driver was attempting to open the door. I asked several times if there was anyone else in the vehicle, but the driver’s responses were incoherent.
A few more bystanders had appeared on the scene. I instructed them to start directing traffic away from the wreckage. A man near the Mustang informed me that the driver was breathing. A wave of relief washed over me.
The driver of the SUV emerged from his vehicle. He appeared highly disoriented. I noticed a trickle of blood from his nose, but didn’t spot any other injuries. As I helped him to the curb, I caught sight of his bloodshot eyes. I asked him a few basic questions but once again he was incoherent.
The sound of sirens grew louder by the second. It’s an eerie feeling knowing the sirens you hear in the distance are headed to your location.
The SUV driver stood and returned to his vehicle, muttering something about his phone. I advised him to sit and wait for the emergency responders, but he didn’t listen. He reemerged from his vehicle, phone in hand. As he exited, I noticed vomit on the floor of the vehicle. The pieces began falling into place in my mind.
I lead the driver back to the curb and awaited the emergency responders. He seemed so relaxed for someone who’d just been in a major crash. A bystander asked me if the driver was drunk, all but confirming my own suspicion. I didn’t want to rush to judgement, but all the evidence seemed to be there.
The sound of sirens drew closer and closer until a fleet of firetrucks and ambulances were in view. Emergency responders sprinted to the scene and began gathering details of the situation at hand.
Firefighters and paramedics rescued the young man from the mangled Mustang. As they carried him away in a stretcher, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d survive.
A firefighter approached the SUV driver, who seemed not to have a clue what was going on. After a few more incoherent responses from the driver, the firefighter stepped away, shaking his head in disbelief.
A police officer dashed over to the scene. As he approached the SUV driver, I read the lips of the firefighter. “I think he’s drunk,” he mouthed. The officer grabbed his radio and called in a code.
It wasn’t long before the sound of sirens once again filled the distant air. As the ambulance raced away from the scene, several more squad cars raced in. Officers quickly made way to the confused SUV driver and handcuffed him. After a brief inspection by a paramedic, the man was escorted to the back of a squad car.
My head pounded. My heart was still racing from the insanity. I wasn’t sure what to do.
An officer approached me, asking for a detailed account of what I’d witnessed. I gave my story, and the officer informed me I’d need to remain at the scene a while longer, as I was the primary witness. He said I’d need to speak with an investigation officer due to the severity of the injury to the Mustang driver.
I waited for what seemed like an hour. My head throbbed. I shivered and looked to the gray skies above, hoping for an ounce of sunlight. I just wanted to get home and forget about what I’d seen.
I’m not sure I ever will forget what I saw. It was a traumatic experience, despite not being directly involved in the accident. I’ve replayed the scene over and over in my head, unable to erase the image of the injured Mustang driver.
Perhaps I’m not supposed to forget what I witnessed. Perhaps I’m meant to remember, so that I can be reminded to make good decisions when getting behind the wheel. And to remind others to make those same good decisions. This experience reminded me how precious life is.
The other day I noticed a scratching sound near my foot with every step I took. Sitting on a bench outside on a warm, sunny day, I turned my foot over. Something peeking out of the crevasse of the bottom of my shoe caught my eye. Glistening in the sunlight was a tiny piece of shattered turquoise glass.
Follow-up: according to news reports, the driver of the Mustang survived the crash. The SUV driver was charged with a DUI and reckless endangerment.