We live on a road with a dangerous s-curve. Over the years, many vehicles have failed to negotiate that difficult stretch. Just before 3 a.m. Monday, another one ended up in the ditch.
For some reason, I was awake enough to hear the vehicle approaching. Then came squealing tires, a thud and an eerie silence.
I went to the window to confirm what I thought I’d heard…hoping that my sleep-clouded brain had manufactured the incident. No such luck; I could hear voices yelling for help.
There’s nothing like a being awakened by such an incident to get your adrenaline charging. My heart was beating like I’d just completed a five-mile run.
I grabbed the cell phone and dialed 911.
As I debated what to do next, I came face to face with the reality of what our law enforcement, emergency medical technicians and firefighters confront every day.
I knew the people needed help. I knew that I’d want someone to be there if I were in their position. But did I really want to thrust myself into that position in the middle of the night with all sorts of dangers and unknowns? As an Eagle Scout, I’ve been trained in First Aid, but could I help someone in this situation? What if it was really bad? Did I want to subject myself to gruesome images that would linger in my mind forever? What if I got there and couldn’t help the person?
All this went through my mind in a few moments. Meanwhile, the cries for help continued. I said a quick prayer for them.
About that time – mercifully – the first law enforcement officials arrived. I was amazed at their response time. It’d been just a few minutes since the accident, and already they were on the scene.
Then came an ambulance, more law enforcement vehicles and a fire truck.
I remember feeling thankful that trained, competent people were now on site. And, personally, I was greatly relieved that I didn’t have to face a potentially grisly scene by myself in the middle of the night.
As the emergency crews did their work, I was grateful that we have such people in our community. Some are paid to respond to such emergencies; that’s their job, and they’re trained to handle situations such as this. Thank God they’re only minutes away when we need them.
But this week, as we celebrate National Fire Prevention Week, I was also very appreciative of the volunteer firefighters who – like me – were sound asleep when the accident happened. When the call came, they responded. They left their warm bed to help someone they probably didn’t know, but who was in need. Unlike me, however, they didn’t hesitate.
After they arrived, I heard creaking metal. I learned later that the truck had rolled and landed on its top, so perhaps they were using the Jaws of Life to extricate the occupants. If that wasn’t necessary, they were there to put out a fire if one developed, and then clean up the area after the occupants were taken to the hospital and the vehicle was removed.
A short time after the initial wave of activity subsided, a tow truck arrived. Then, a little later, I heard in the distance the “wap, wap, wap” of a helicopter approaching town. Another level of our community’s emergency response team was coming into play.
Though it disrupted my sleep for the night, it was a fascinating look at the people who are there to help others in their time of need. My hat is off to them for putting themselves on the front line.
As for me, well, I’m still debating what I could have or should have done. Did I do enough? Should I have thrown on my jeans and a sweatshirt and gone to the driver’s assistance immediately?
I made the 911 call. But do I owe others more than that?
That’s a debate I’ll have with myself for a while. And maybe the next time a driver fails to negotiate the curves, I’ll be ready to be of more practical help.