Something that just doesn’t fit into my upcoming post on my vacation in Chicago happened on the very last day there.
I had to drop my mom and her sister off at our uncle’s house. My mom decided to stay behind to help him as he has dementia. My aunt wanted to pay a visit before catching her flight home.
On our way, I had the worst time finding the correct exit. I made an abrupt lane change at the fork…twice. It’s hard for me to tell which exit sign aligned with the lanes. Luckily, traffic was very light as we were nearest the Indiana State line on a Sunday afternoon, and it was very lucky for a certain van that we were headed in the same direction.
We were maybe 10 minutes away from my Uncle’s house when I saw a van move ahead of us from my right peripheral. I thought nothing of it since traffic was light and the van wasn’t doing anything alarming until it traveled across all three lanes of traffic, hit the highway partition, careened back across the entire road and landed on its passenger side in a plume of dirt.
The trajectory was unbelievable, like a freak-accident depicted in movies and it was unfolding before me! Most likely the driver lost control of the van when their tire blew. Subsequently, they hit the partition and somehow accelerated towards the brush. It was terrifying and almost unbelievable that it was happening. Dumbfounded, I kept murmuring “Oh shit, oh shit,” until my mom and aunt finally saw the van crash.
My aunt immediately demanded that I pull over. My mom was in chorus. I navigated around the debris of a hub cap, metal, rubber and glass. Before I could park my car, my aunt catapulted out of the backseat and ran towards the van through the thicket. I called 911 and handed my mom the phone so I could give my aunt back-up. My friend stayed behind to help my mom.
The weeds were tall and scratchy, surrounding everything. My aunt was moving so fast, I couldn’t keep up. I briefly saw the shattered windshield push outward as the driver was trying to get out. My aunt was already barehandedly pulling back the shattered windshield by the time I got close enough, and the driver emerged from the wreckage.
The driver was covered in blood: head, mouth, arms, legs and glass wounds all over. According to my aunt, the driver had a large swelling on their forehead, most likely from hitting their head on something. But, they were mostly coherent. They walked about, stood for the majority of the time and even washed off some of their wounds with a water bottle handed to them! The van was totaled, but they kept saying they had to go back as if they needed to complete their route. My aunt had to tell them multiple times they couldn’t go back into the van and that they needed to stay still so as not to aggravate their injuries.
My aunt was awesome. She took the person aside and explained some things separately, away from earshot…or was it that I was still alarmed so most sounds were drowned out? Other drivers that pulled over with us to help came and went. A tow truck driver, educated in Department of Transporation regulations, took over before the ambulance arrived.
The driver was very grateful and tried to thank my aunt who didn’t think much about her heroic feat. I even thanked her. I would’ve been lost without her. She quickly jumped into action, knew what to say and do and was completely selfless. By the end of it, she had a small cut on her hand and glass on her clothes, and her flight was still later that evening! I couldn’t be more proud of my aunt.
When I reflect on what happened, I realize I’m not a selfless person. So many thoughts crossed my mind as the accident unfurled, shameful thoughts encouraging me to stay safe. So, I didn’t move as quickly as my aunt and it disappoints me that I was so hesitant. Bottom line, it wasn’t about me. The person could’ve died.
But, it was fate we were there exactly as the crash occurred. We, my aunt, were meant to be there. If I continued on the wrong exit, we would’ve missed it all, and my selfless aunt wouldn’t have been there. No one else was with her to pull back the windshield. Most stayed on the sidelines to safely call the police. One driver mentioned something disparaging as I headed after my aunt.
This experience, and my aunt’s actions, have taught me to work on myself more; not the cliche that life is not guaranteed, but that my actions matter the most while I’m living. And if love is the most powerful force on this planet, I should’ve been ready to share it selflessly.