The minivan was toppled over, crushed from all sides. It had settled top side down on the concrete median that separated the freeway northbound and southbound, like it had been dropped from the sky. There were no police. No ambulance. No sirens in the distance. Just common folk who had pulled over to the shoulder of the road to search through the shattered windshield for survivors.
While others peeked into the wreckage one man turned away, his hands lifted over his head, a gesture to oncoming traffic. “I don’t believe it,” it said, “I can’t believe it.”
As we drove by I looked over and I shouldn’t have. The rear driver side window, where you imagine children looked out of on long drives from their car seats, had burst into a fractured white dust. It had taken the full brunt of the crash and blood streamed from its cracks and ran down the concrete median.
We were driving down the freeway heading south and they were heading north. I had only a glimpse of the scene but that was enough to feel it. It hurt the inside of my guts and I knew why that man looked away. It was brutal. This was on a Wednesday afternoon. Nothing like this should happen on a boring Wednesday afternoon but then you remember – the attacks on September 11th, 2001 were on a Monday morning.
Horrible things do happen in broad daylight.
We drove by a few hours later and it was all gone. Traffic moved by and there was no debris, no sign of the accident. I looked for the blood, hoping I wouldn’t see it and I didn’t. The agency in charge of cleaning up accidents has this process down. Erase the scene. Remove the crucial elements. Give the public no visual reminders. Business as usual.
I searched the internet for any news on the accident. How did it happen? Who was it? Is everyone okay, home and healthy? The only accident report I could find read, “Overturned vehicle and accident with injuries. Left lane blocked. Expect delays.”
Expect delays. Left lane blocked. All you can find are the facts that help you. Someone has been selfish on your behalf and said, “This accident is in the way of you getting to where you need to go.” This is tragedy minus the tragedy.
Maybe that’s how the public needs it. Treat these incidents as normal, because they are normal. Still, you want to know everyone is okay. You want to throw some love out, some sympathy or whatever you call that feeling of sickness you get when you see something terrifying happen to anyone. A stranger. A friend. It doesn’t matter.
I wanted to read that it was a stolen vehicle that was fleeing a crime scene. An awkward suicide. This is what we talked about in the car to not feel the pain. Create a story where this accident was a good thing. The other possibilities, the most likely story, I didn’t want to hear. But at the same time I do. You look for blood hoping you won’t see it.