Two nights ago, just 10 minutes after my husband arrived home from work we heard a horrific noise towards the front of our small acreage. At first I thought it sounded like a car racing by shooting an automatic weapon. Then I thought it sounded like someone losing their load of metal and garbage off a flatbed trailer as they traveled too fast down our narrow country lane. We ran outside to the porch. I smelled a strange odor...dust or smoke billowed past the end of my driveway as I sprinted in flip-flops down our gravel drive. Then a huge plume of dust billowed in front of the neighbors house ending in what I thought was an explosion. As I reached the street still unable to see, I heard a woman screaming for help. My blood raced and chills ran down my spine at what I might see when I topped the hill. I knew it was something terribly bad.
As I reached the street I was met by my neighbors running down the road with me. My phone rang...the song "Fancy"...I knew it was my daughter whom had left home earlier that same day returning to college.
"Hi Michelle," I answered, trying to sound calm but failing miserably as I was out of breath and adrenalin raced.
"Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I talked to..." she went on.
"Honey, I can't talk right now..." I interrupted, " I think there's been an accident on the front of our property." Then she started asking questions as I topped the hill and saw the street covered with garbage and debris...papers littered the street for a hundred or more yards. I searched for the jackknifed trailer that had carried the load. There was none. Then I spotted the vehicle laying on it's side in the middle of the horse field. The result of multiple rolls down the hill, through the fence and across the field.
"Is is bad?" Michelle asked.
"Yes, it's bad." I replied.
"Oh my God is Daddy OK?" she asked in a terrified voice.
"Why are you so upset?" I asked.
"You said it was Dad!"
"Oh no baby, I thought you said is it BAD, No it's not Daddy, he is fine." Then I began to tremble for frightening Michelle, tears filled my eyes.
I hung up the phone to see my neighbor calling 911. I spotted a male body laying in front of the crumpled SUV. I was afraid to approach, in fear of what I might see but I knew I had to. I ran to the wreckage. Thank God he moved, he was alive. His shirt was covered in blood the size of a soccer ball. His right arm was covered in blood. I told him to lie still that help was on the way. People from my neighborhood ran to assist the woman driver stuck in the rig hanging upside down in the seat-belt. Three people held her dangling body upright. She gurgled as she struggled to breath. My husband was one. He squatted on top of the SUV hanging on to the severely injured woman. He focused on her neatly french manicured nails that dug into his blood smeared bare arm to avoid looking at her exposed brains. Blood dripped down on the small framed neighbor woman that helped hold her body. My husbands hands trickled blood of his own from small cuts from the broken glass.
Others gathered to assist and wait for the ambulance that was taking an exceptionally long time to arrive...they couldn't find the way they said. I focused my attention on the herd of 6 horses that raced and kicked and continually tried to approach the wreckage. I worried about the injured man laying on the ground being trampled. I spotted some hay and ran and grabbed flakes to distract and calm the excited snorting equines. It worked for a while. The man on ground mumbled about "messing up" and "leaving the baby alone". He insisted I call a number. "I messed up," he said. I asked his name, he said it was Ray. He said they had been baby sitting..."they need to know about the baby," Ray said as he he looked up at me. His eyes were crystal blue, but glazed...is he drunk? It could be shock, I thought. Grey stubble covered his chin...he needed a shave. His hair was short his frame was very small. Thoughts of my deceased brother-in-law flooded me, he had a roll-over accident from high speed driving drunk. I walked away and called the number. The woman on the phone didn't know Ray or anything about a baby but started asking me all kind of questions. "Where is the accident?" I confirmed there was no baby there and she did not know Ray then hung up the phone still waiting for rescuers to arrive.
Liqueur bottles scattered across the dirt field. A box of Fronzia wine lay next to the overturned vehicle where it had been thrown from the car. I looked around at the debris of post-it notes, receipts, a checkbook, the woman's black purse and cell phone, an old pillow. Junk mail and opened envelopes of mail littered the street for hundreds of feet. Time passed slowly. Thirty minutes passed and help had not yet arrived...they only had 3 miles to travel. We could hear sirens getting louder and then the faded and went silent. I saw my husband talking on the cell phone with one hand as he strained to hold the woman with the other. He's calling 911 again. I heard the woman moan. Someone jumped into a truck and headed up the road to flag them down and lead them to the wreck site.
They finally arrived and began assisting the woman, removing her from the overturned car. One rescuer attended the man on the ground. They yelled that the Air Life helicopter was on the way and would land in the neighbors pasture.
The horses now tired of the hay, headed towards the downed fence. I shooed them back. We grabbed a halter and caught the lead mare and led her to another pasture, the herd followed minutes before Air Life arrived. The woman, Jennifer we later heard, was loaded into the helicopter, Ray was transported in the ambulance.
The following morning our quiet country lane was covered with pink spray paint marking the "out of control" speeding vehicle's path. No one witnessed the accident but 1 person saw them pass his home at a speed of near 70. "They got air going over the hill in front of my place, " Roger told the sheriff deputy. It was believed that alcohol and high speed was the cause. I felt guilty thinking I should have done more. Why didn't I run to help the trapped woman as my husband and others had. I tried to tell myself... I did the what I knew...dealing with the horses.
I picked up the discarded crime tape and found a grocery receipt on the ground. I was sure it came from the wreckage. Four bottles of wine and a bag of chips is all that the was purchased at 9:00 am just 3 days before the accident. Anger overcame me when I thought of how many people could have been affected by these peoples actions. The pink marker paint showed how the car had traveled the full length of my property on the dirt shoulder on the wrong side of the road. I thanked God that Dennis had arrived home 10 minutes before the accident. But now he sits in a lab being tested for HIV and hepatitis due to the cuts on his hands.
The newspaper said that Jennifer, age 37 was in critical condition and Ray, age 50 was in serious condition. They were not married to each other. I don't know whether these people lived or died, but I do know that nearly a dozen of my neighbors showed unconditional love to these people who had no regard to life and chose to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. I can only hope the unattended baby was safe and unharmed.
Sherrie Gant is a writer, photographer, and