About two weeks ago there was a bad automobile wreck on Hwy 127 about 10 miles south of Liberty. It was a gorgeous, sunny Spring day; good weather on a good road.
A southbound car had slowed to a stop in order to make a left hand turn into a driveway. A second southbound vehicle directly behind it also slowed to a stop. A third vehicle didn’t.
Instead, it hit the second stopped car and went airborne, directly into the northbound lane.
In the northbound lane was a 17 year old girl from Michigan who was driving home with her family from Tennessee, where she had gone to visit the college she planned to attend in the fall.
She was a beautiful young girl.
She won’t be going to college.
Last Friday, I drove southbound past the site where the wreck took place. A flowered cross was all that remained to mark what had happened.
Later in the day, as I was driving back home, I realized that I was taking the same path this young girl had on the day she died. The same road. The same direction. The wreck site was about 5 miles ahead of me.
I couldn’t help but imagine her taking this same route two weeks before. Seeing what she saw, taking my car through the same meandering turns as she had. I felt like I was looking at it through her eyes.
She has no idea that she only has 5 minutes left to live. What conversation was she having with her family? Was she smiling? Laughing? What song was playing on the radio?
A feeling of sadness follows me as I retrace her final steps.
She could have never known when she got dressed that morning that it would be the last time she would ever do that. What did she eat for breakfast? Was she excited about getting home? Was there a young man she was looking forward to seeing again? Girlfriends to celebrate with?
I can see the cross up on the hill now.
She has less than 10 seconds to live, and she still has no idea.
I imagine that she sees a car coming towards her now, slowing down with it’s turn signal on. It’s waiting for her to pass by. Perfectly normal. What is she thinking about? Is she speaking or listening? Does she see the second car coming to a stop behind the first? Does she see the third car at all?
A fraction of a second.
A moment in time.
I pass through the spot marked by the flowered cross. She never does.
My life goes on unaffected. Hers ends instantly.
I glance up and see the cross in my rearview mirror, slipping away behind me, then disappearing altogether.