I was in The Woodlands two Saturdays ago. I had gone there to watch my nine-year-old nephew play in his basketball league. I sat beside my six-year-old niece and my brother during the game. We cheered him on, and when I say we, I mean my brother and I, since my niece was busy playing some dress up game on her tablet. It’s always a joy watching him play. It’s a joy just being around my nephew and my niece. I love them so much it’s hard to put into words. I’m so proud of them. They’ve become such smart kids. He loves to read. She loves to paint. They both love Star Wars and Marvel and the Rockets and the Astros. My nephew has shown a sudden interest in Sherlock Holmes, which is something near and dear to my heart. My niece will have her first-prize painting up at Rodeo Houston. And they’re just good kids. I know they are both going to be incredible adults when they grow up.
I spent the rest of the day in The Woodlands. I got an oil change. Got coffee at Starbucks and worked on some projects. I grabbed some early dinner. I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a few books for some friends and one for myself. My mom texted me and said she and dad were meeting up with my brother and the kids at Chuy’s. I grabbed a later dinner with them though I didn’t eat much.
I sat between my niece and my mom. We all talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company for quite a while. My nephew hid my wallet as a joke. My niece punched my arm until I finally had to stop her because it actually started to hurt.
When dinner was over, I raced my nephew to my brother’s truck that was parked in the back of the parking lot. I gave them both hugs and kisses. I gave my brother a hug. Then I walked to my car.
When I got to my car, my brother pulled up, the back seat window was down and my nephew and niece yelled goodbye and laughed as they drove off.
As I drove on the feeder in The Woodlands, I drove past my parents. My dad is a really slow driver. I honked and waved and kept going. I got on 45 South to go home. I was listening to a podcast. I was on the freeway for about five or 10 minutes when I noticed a vehicle behind me driving at a very fast speed and swerving across traffic. I was in the second from the right lane. A car was right next to me.
As we passed an exit, I remember hoping that whoever was speeding behind us would take the exit and get off the freeway. But I remember thinking that if he did that, there was no way he wouldn’t hit anyone. The vehicle didn’t exit and kept coming our way. I remember telling myself that there was no use in reacting. If I reacted and tried to get over, then I would likely cut right into his path. I stayed in my lane. The car parallel to me stayed in their lane. The speeding vehicle only had one option. Take the shoulder around us.
The sound of crunching plastic and turning metal and busting glass filled my senses. I looked to my right to see the car next to me get lifted into the air. Sparks lit up the collision. My only reaction was to scream out, “Jesus! No!” Those were the only two words I could get out. I kept calling on Jesus to protect me and those two vehicles. As I screamed and prayed, I moved out of the way toward the far left lane and off to the shoulder. The car that had been hit flipped into my lane and continued flipping all the way across the freeway into the far left lane. The other vehicle had flipped down the freeway onto the right shoulder. Both cars ended upside down.
I jumped out of my car, dialed 911, and ran back to the car that had been hit. As I ran to the car, I knew I would see the worst. Without God providing a miracle, there was no way anyone could have lived through that crash. Both vehicles had flipped end over end numerous times for about an eighth of a mile.
As I talked to the 911 dispatch, I neared the red upside down car. People had already stopped and gotten out of their car to help. They had pulled a little girl out of the backseat of the car. She lay unconscious on the freeway, her head being held and rested on the dislodged headrest of her car seat. The skin on her nose scraped. A gash was on the top of her forehead. Her little right leg limp and offset with an obvious fracture. The little girl’s aunt was frantic. She was screaming for help as help was being administered. There was nothing she could do. Nothing much any of us could do except try to help in a near helpless situation.
The police were already there. They had been called for an accident that had taken place less than half a mile ahead of us. There were police already on the scene of that wreck. Their lights flashing across the highway.
I prayed and prayed. I held the aunt for a moment and prayed for her. I prayed for the police. I prayed for the little girl.
I looked down the freeway at the other car. People had gathered around it. The driver and the passenger were pulled from the vehicle. It seemed as though the people were holding the driver. I thought of the little girl and I didn’t much care about what they did to the driver.
There were about a dozen of us helping the little girl and her aunt. The ambulance finally made its way through the stopped traffic. The little girl, still unconscious was placed on a stretcher and put into the back of the ambulance. Her aunt got in with her and they were gone.
The driver and passenger of the other vehicle, an SUV, with its front-end smashed like a pancake, were taken down the side of the highway to the EMTs. The passenger was soon escorted past us, her face bloody, the left side of it full of scratches. A stumbling mess, she was assisted into the back of an ambulance. The driver was placed on a stretcher and pushed past us toward the ambulance.
I walked over to the SUV to survey the damage. An empty green Dos Equis bottle lay next to the passenger side. Large drops of blood stained the inside of the driver’s side roof.
I walked down the cordoned freeway to see how far both cars had flipped. I walked past shattered glass, vehicle parts, and pieces of plastic and metal. A policeman came up to me. He pointed out that the white scrape marks were where the vehicle had flipped and hit the freeway. The marks were scores of feet apart. I stopped and turned to see how far the cars had soared and flipped. It was impossible that none of them had died.
I waited to give my statement to the police. I stood next to the people who had stopped to help. A lady who helped to hold the little girl said the head injury did not look promising. Not promising at all.
The wind became colder. We stood waiting to give our statements. Nothing could have kept us from giving our statements. We would have waited all night. And we waited for much of it. Someone had to pay for this moment. This tragedy. The driver of the speeding vehicle had to pay for it. The little girl had to receive some semblance of justice.
As I stood in the cold, I thought of my nephew and my niece. I thought of the basketball game. The painting. The reading. The dinner we had. The race to the vehicle. The hugs and kisses. The moments I was only inches away from possibly no longer experiencing. I thought of the little girl and how her life may never be the same, if by the grace of God she lived. And then I thought of the driver of the SUV and how he had thrown his life away and ruined the lives of many others in the matter of just a few seconds.
There isn’t a moral to any of this. Most real life tragedies don’t have a moral; they just have a tragedy.