Thursday, February 15, 2018


Two crosses, one with plastic flowers, are in the grass on the corner across from where this guy just got T-boned. I could see it coming. The courteous people just ahead of me were leaving a gap to let a small yellow Nerds-to-Go van make a left turn.

I looked in my side view and saw a Black Kia coming along in the third lane at what looked like normal speed. Neither one

of these guys could see they were on an intercept, but I could see the whole board. No amount of horn-honking or hand-waving was going to help.

They say that time gets distorted in moments like this. It’s

true. Pieces on the board are in motion, slow-motion. The outcome is inevitable. If Jill had been sitting next to me, she would have said “what’s wrong?” in response to what would have sounded from me like a slow, drawn-out combination of a groan and the word: “Nooooohhhh.

The Kia laid on his brakes but it was a done deal. He hit the little yellow van a solid one. It got the van up on two wheels and spun him once, the van driver now facing me. I watched him as the little truck teetered and started to roll.

As it tipped, the man crossed his arms over his face. Gray hair, an orange shirt. Invoices and clipboards and paper coffee cups came up off the dashboard, like when they’re sliding off the bridge in that “Inception” movie. I saw him falling in slow motion toward the driver’s door and thought I hope you’re belted in, buddy. The van came to rest on its side and everything stopped and was quiet. Three seconds later, the first movement: guys piling out of their cars to help.

What’s next? Allow yourself the possibility that your first thoughts might be: 

“What was that number? The one you’re supposed to call? Oh yeah, 911. Now how does this phone work again?”

I got the three numbers punched in and pulled into a gas station parking lot while I gave the dispatcher all the info I could. Location, number and description of vehicles, and injuries.

“Any injuries? she said. “Anyone thrown from the vehicle?”

Let me have a look, I said.

I walked toward the overturned van and the two crosses on the far corner caught my eye. One appeared to have fallen over, the one without the flowers.

I walked toward the van and was thinking about the kit I have in the back of my Pilot: pads, tape, compression bandages, saline, some QuikClot hemostatic gauze. EMT shears. A tourniquet. I’ve had training to use this stuff, but have I ever had to patch anything more than a boo-boo or a slide-bit knuckle? Nope.

I rounded the back of the van. Nobody on the pavement. That’s good, I think. Five or six drivers stood in a semi-circle. Some were on their phones, looking in the directions from which they thought help would come. One had his arms crossed and his chin in his hand, looking down as if he were thinking through a perplexing math problem. One man was on his knees with his face close to the driver’s, talking to him.

The dispatcher said stay on the line so I did. Okay, I said: Yellow service van. He was hit broadside on the passenger side, spun 180 and rolled onto the driver side. The driver is conscious. Male about 60. I don’t see any blood. He looks like he’s pinned under the steering wheel.

“Anyone thrown from the vehicle?” she said.

I leaned down.

Sir, I said.
What happened? I don’t know what happened.
You’re gonna be okay. Was there anyone besides you?
Just me.

I stood up. It's just one person, I said to the dispatcher. Nobody ejected.

We heard the distant keen of sirens. You’re okay, mister. The cavalry is coming.

On his own, the driver had pulled himself from under the steering wheel and crawled out through a windshield that was now a side door. I helped him to his feet and put my arm around his waist. I said why don’t you come over here and sit on the curb until some help gets here?

He looked at me like he was surprised to find someone standing so close and like he was wondering who the hell is this guy?

He waved me off and said, “That’s okay. I’ve been sitting for a little bit so I think I’ll stand.” Sense of humor. A good sign.

I let go and he tottered. I stayed close enough to get a handful of his shirt if I needed to. I figured if he went over, I could help him not land too hard.

Fishers PD was there first. I didn’t get the officer’s name, but he was solidly built, salt-and-pepper hair, and calm of demeanor.

I put my hand on the driver’s shoulder and told the officer this fellow goes with this van. He pulled himself out, I said. I got a pretty good view of what happened, so if you want to ask me about it, I’ll be right over here for a few minutes, pointing to a patch of grass that got me out of the way.

The officer nodded and turned to the big fellow. As I moved away, I heard the officer say, “Why don’t you have a seat on the sidewalk, sir?”

“I’m okay. I’m okay to stand.”

I heard the officer chuckle and he said, "They always say that.” I looked back to see him helping ease the driver down to sit.


On my way back through, I pulled off on the Reynolds side to have a look at the intersection. Two hours later, you’d have never known there was an accident. Nobody died here. Not today. I looked over to the two crosses on the corner. One had, in fact, fallen over, so I walked over and picked it up.

The cross was bolted together out of four baseball bats, and a ball cap with a big black “T” hung from the crux. A little googlery and I came up with Indy Titans and a name. This man had played club baseball. He coached youth baseball. He loved basketball and baseball and motorcycles. I propped his baseball-bat cross upright into its hole and stomped the earth tight around it.

No comments: