I was returning home on Interstate 40 last night when I saw about four or five semis slowed to a crawl in the right lane. Strange. An acrid, burned-rubber smell drifted into my truck. I slowed to about 10 mph and came upon one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen in a long time. A man was lying in a fetal position on the highway while a woman ran toward him, screaming, crying. A mangled red SUV was about 30 yards away, off the road. It all happened so slowly, so strangely. I drifted past, noticing the glimmering broken glass covering the roadway. The Do Lung bridge scene in Apocalpyse Now came quickly to mind. Then adrenaline hit me. I pulled over, already past the accident, and fumbled for my cell phone. Misdialed. Dialed again. Was put on hold by the 911 system. A police car’s lights approached in my sideview mirror. I sat stunned for a moment. Realized there was nothing to be done but gawk at this point. Shut off my cell phone. Pulled slowly back onto I-40, hands shaking, and continued on home.
I still don’t know what happened. No report in this morning’s paper. It was probably past their deadline. But the image of that woman and man on the Interstate won’t leave. It reminds me of my reporter days, when I would “cover” a fatal accident. I always felt like a vulture circling carrion, and it always took me a week or two to flush the scene from my mind …
The paper did have a story on Saturday about the crash. Turns out it was a kid, driving too fast, not wearing a seatbelt. The young woman I saw going toward his lifeless body was his 15-year-old girlfriend. It’s interesting that another witness is quoted in the paper’s account, describing the scene exactly the way I recall it. We must have pass it within seconds of each other.
Wear your damn seatbelt, folks.