Excerpt: After the Sirens

We all reacScreen Shot 2015-02-10 at 9.59.34 AMt when we hear sirens. In fact, we react with heart- pounding urgency whenever we hear siren after siren. Some of us even take a moment to pray for those who are in need as well as for the first responders.

On that day, police cars, fire trucks, EMTs, and ambulances kept coming. Although it was close to time for a shift change, the first responders to arrive stayed on to assist those who came on duty later. Already, they were part of all that happened that day.

Passersby, who paused to stare at the tangled mess of metal and machine, wondered how this could have happened.

That morning, I was up and working early. My son, Trey, needed a ride to get to school early for some help. I threw on my favorite gray sweat pants and T-shirt, grabbed my purse and keys, and, for some reason, decided to put on my new diamond tennis bracelet—a gift from my husband. It was a gift that I would never see again after that day. I dropped Trey off at school and headed home—or so I thought. There was a light but continuous drizzle that morning, and I noticed the streets were somewhat slick and slippery as I stopped at a traffic signal. When the light turned green, I accelerated slowly because of the slippery feel of the road. I remember a dark-colored pickup truck coming toward me. I watched as its front wheels crossed the yellow lines on the road, heading into my lane. I distinctly remember thinking, He’s out of control.

The truck hit my SUV head-on but slightly off center, forcing us to collide a second time. The rate of speed and impact of the truck, which was slightly lower than my SUV, caused the truck to slide under the front end of my Expedition, sending it airborne. It twisted 180 degrees in midair and landed on top of another Expedition that had been beside me, crushing it completely. The two white Expeditions, now entangled, were careening forward, out of control, for almost a block. When the tangled wreckage finally came to a stop, my car overturned and hit a brick wall, causing it to tumble down.

A video from a local business captured the initial impact. The indescribable sound of an enormous explosion, with spectacular flashes of light splitting the wreckage while dust and debris flew in all directions, was heart-stopping to watch. In the video footage, it was difficult to determine which car was which. When the dust settled, three vehicles in all—a pickup truck and two white Expeditions— lay in ruins. Bits of metal, glass, rubber, and other assorted car parts lay scattered across the pavement, covering the road as far as one could see. The street lay still, as every motorist stopped in fearful awe of what was happening. An eerie silence fell upon the whole scene—and then the sirens began.