September 9, 2010

Accidents

Today I was complaining on Twitter about a loud neighbor child who while playing outside CONSISTENTLY and PERSISTENTLY makes a loud, grating, "motor" sound (EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!) that can't be good either for his throat or my ears, and then I heard a screech of tires and an unmistakable sound of 1.5 tons of metal hitting another 1.5 tons of metal, and then the sound of a woman crying out. And there is NO connection here to the child making the grating sound, except that I was complaining about him shortly before it happened: he was neither injured nor involved, and in fact had gone inside already. But _I_ was rocketing out of my chair and into the yard within seconds (I HOPE it was within seconds, and that I didn't sit there insensate for awhile before responding), calling out to anyone I saw, "Is anyone hurt?" "Has anyone called 911?" And I don't know why I did that, because no one can provide answers to that kind of question 10 seconds after a crash and/or BEFORE the point at which someone should be dialing 911. After my first "I don't know!" answer, I ran back into my house and called 911 and cursed the gods who gave me a voice that shakes so hard in times like this. My goal is to avoid the throat-clamped feeling of tears, or at least to plow through them and speak anyway. Even if they TRANSFER me and make me say it AGAIN, which is what they did.

And here is what I've noticed: that you can live a mile and a half from the nearest emergency response station, and it can still take a full year to hear sirens. You can wait, and wait, and wait, and still there is a car way down off the road in a ditch and another car through the neighbor's fence and into the neighbor's yard, and nothing is HAPPENING, and traffic is backing up and still no one is there. And yet, 45 minutes later and the ambulances have left and the cars have been towed and the police officers who were directing traffic have gotten back in their cars and driven off. And how can that be, when a year passed before they arrived?

Well. Clearly they need to put updates in the local paper, because NO I don't know what happened, and I couldn't figure it out from the position of the cars. One woman was taken away with her arm in a sling, and that was from the car that looked fine. The other car had a building and an ambulance between it and me, but after the passenger or passengers had been removed and the tow truck was hauling it up out of the ditch, I could see the entire front part was crumpled, with part of it dangling off, and both airbags were in the front seats. Which is as it should be: air bags should deploy, the front should crumple to absorb the impact before the impact reaches anything made of flesh and bones.

But I couldn't SEE much out my window. I saw people coming to my neighbors' house and getting paper towels and heading back to the car that was in the ditch. I heard a bystander say "...wasn't belted in..." I saw emergency personnel standing around looking casual. The ambulances didn't have sirens on when they left. My neighbor started sweeping up the mess in her yard. Most of these things point to everything being okay---just a scary thing that happened and then everything started up again and turned into insurance claims.

Did I ever tell you about the accident I was in when I was 17? I was driving a pick-up truck home from a used book store with my best friend, and I was fiddling with the radio, and I dipped onto the soft shoulder and overreacted, spinning the wheel way too hard back onto the road. And we hit a tree, and we hit it roof-first and in the opposite direction of the one in which we'd been traveling, and the rear-view mirror ended up between our heads. It seemed to me that the ambulance arrived seconds later, and when they asked me if I'd hit my head, I said no, but it took many hair-washings to get all the windshield glass out of the lump on my head. And when we were in the ambulance, the ambulance guy said to me, "Man, when we saw the truck, we didn't expect to find...but there you were, grinning!"

18 comments:

Christina said...

Oh YES the good comment form!

I am horrible at calling 911. I've had to do it twice. Once for an uncle that cut himself badly on garden shears and once for myself after a car accident. Both times I could barely speak. But I distinctly remember the first call (my uncle's) I was put ON HOLD. I was like "this is 911- can they DO that!?"

Kelsey said...

I am retroactively concerned about the accident you were in - it sounds like a close call (in that you weren't seriously injured).

I cannot believe you heard/saw the aftermath of an accident essentially in your front yard. Those are the kinds of stories that make me rethink sending Harper to our mailbox.

Sounds like everyone is really okay - but I would like accident updates as well. I still think about the time last winter I called 911 after watching a car lose control on the ice...

Bethsix said...

I had a car accident in college where I ended up facing the opposite direction I'd been traveling, and the campus security guard who showed up told me there was no way my car was going that direction, that I'd obviously smashed the other side of my car in in A DIFFERENT accident and that I was trying to get insurance money to cover it. And then he told me if I went to a chiropractor, he/she would likely break my neck like happened to some guy he knew. Helpful guy, that one.

I've personally called 911 twice, once when my daughter was choking (she was fine by the time I actually talked to a human) and once when I realized what I'd witnessed the day before was actually the beginning of a drive-by shooting. I called and was like, "Um, I guess I need to talk to Homicide, but I wasn't sure how to call them directly." And then I got the homicide person (do you call this person a "receptionist"?), and I was freaked out and shaking and telling her what I saw, and she was like, "I'm sorry, honey, this will sound crass, but we only deal with cases where people DIE," and I was like, "Yeah, just let me get to the point of my story." That was my birthday 2007, 5 days before my third baby was born.

The one time we saw a really bad car accident, it was the car in front of us, driven by an elderly woman. The elderly male passenger died while we were sitting there. Friday the 13th of April 2001. I was four days away from my due date with my first baby.

I clearly should not have been near automobiles when pregnant.

With the fatal accident, everyone was really slow moving because the man was gone by the time real help arrived. They put up big wall type things to keep onlookers out while they took pictures or whatever they did since it was a fatal auto accident. We left about an hour after it happened, and the road was still closed.

So, I BET if everyone was gone 45 minutes post-accident at your house, it was because all the drivers/passengers were still alive and transported wherever they needed to be. I'm hoping for that.

Bratling said...

I haven't had to call 911 in a long time... But did you know if say... the baby is playing with the phone while her parents attention is on something else for a minute, and manages to call it, they have to send the police out to investigate anyway? Evie has done it twice--to the immense embarrassment of her parents.

Charlene said...

Your car accident is so similar to one I had just after I graduated from high school. We lived in a little town about 15 miles outside of the nearest city, and I was coming home from my first day of working at Pizza Hut for the summer before heading to college. I reached into the backseat to get my purse, went off the hard surface onto the soft shoulder, overcorrected and went across the road and into the ditch on the other side. I hit an embankment, flipped the car one and a half times, and landed upside down and snuggled right up against a telephone pole. I had my seatbelt on, and walked away with only a tiny bump on one of my knees from hitting it under the dash. The car was a total loss. I was so lucky that there was no oncoming traffic.

I'm great in emergencies when I'm "in the moment". It's when I start thinking about what happened later that I can kind of wig out!

Jen in MI said...

So weird you talked about our accident today. I was just telling the kids about it as they were looking at the scar on my arm that remains to this day from the glass. They thought the fact I needed stitches was terrible, but I was telling them what the amublance guys said about what they expected to find and that stitches weren't so bad in comparison...Somewhere, I have pictures of your parents' truck at the junkyard and the tree we hit...

Swistle said...

Jen- Oh, I should get out those photos! I have one that shows the huge bruises on my legs (where the steering wheel was pressed down into the seat).

Jessa (bipolararmywife) said...

Scary! I've had friends survive some pretty nasty accidents and some that did not at very young ages; two alcohol related. I also hate having to be the one in charge. We once thought my younger brother may have broken/severely hurt his neck and I had to call 911. Thankfully we had neighbors on our street who were volunteers with the fire dept and before an ambulance even showed up we had someone at the house already checking him out. He did get the brace and the backboard and the whole deal. Nothing was wrong

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I've only had to call 911 once, thank goodness... My husband and I were driving at night, on the freeway, and a car crashed into the median. I remember being much more adrenaline-rushy than scared. But I had no idea what to do, really... Stay with the guy (we did - until the cops told us to leave)? Try to go over to him (my husband did)? Stick around to give a report to the cops (they didn't need one and sent us on our way)?

The guy was fine, by the way.

Mommy Daisy said...

Car accidents are crazy like that. It's all so surreal, then it's over. Your 17 year old self was lucky, but I love the guys response to it. Ha!

When I was 17, two of my friends drove a pick-up truck into a large (deep) ditch pretty much the same way as you. Luckily there was no tree. They had dropped me off at my house about 10 minutes before it happened. Then called me about an hour later to tell me. Scared me to death. Luckily everyone was fine, very little damage to the truck too.

Don't know why I felt the need to share that, just that your story reminded me about it.

Bell said...

I've only ever been in two car accidents, and they were frightening (none our fault). I'm more likely to hit curbs than moving cars, knock on wood.

It's good that you called 911. There's a problem where, the more people involved, the less likely someone will call 911 because they assume someone else has taken care of it. This is called the "bystander effect" creating a "diffusion of responsibility." It's an unfortunate psychological process most people go through, and I'm so glad to read that you called 911 anyway. I've been told in so many psych classes that emergency services would rather have 20 calls about the same accident than none.

Jess said...

OMG that is scary. I have goosebumps reading about BOTH these accidents. I think it is good that despite the shaky voice issue, you CALL 911 if you have to. It is amazing how many people wouldn't do that.

Can you check the local police blotter? There might be something in there about it. And even if it doesn't include a resolution you could maybe call for more info.

sara said...

That's really scary, but it seems like no one was too badly hurt.

I was in a wreck at 18 that I had to be Jaws of Life-d out of. Very scary as was the rest of the day. I spent it strapped to a wooden board because the ER thought I had broken my nexk. Good times.

d e v a n said...

oh my goodness - how scary!

cherylc said...

I've probably called 911 50 times. Am I some kind of freak? The calls run the gamut: teenager exposing himself, woman pedestrian on freeway bridge, shots fired (lots of those, I live in a city), etc. Once I heard screaming out my window, then I heard "Did someone call an ambulance?" So I did. Also, once I witnessed an assault. That was the scariest for me, because the parties involved surrounded my car, and if they threatened me I was going to have to run someone over, and no one wants that. But they left, and I actually ended up testifying in that trial, which was very scary. All because my daughter had unexpectedly lost a tooth and I needed a tooth fairy present in the middle of the night!

Anyway, I've joked that I'm glad that they don't keep 911 files by name, because mine would be thick and I would look like a crank.

There was a fight outside my house last weekend, and I didn't call 911 because I could tell I was so sleepy I wouldn't make sense. I just went back to bed. Later, my husband asked me why I didn't call, and I said I could barely think.

So, my point here? I guess it would be that if you live in active enough neighborhood it gets much easier. But it's always hard if someone is hurt.

Rebecca said...

My husband and I were driving home from getting our little one the H1N1 vaccination last fall, when we came across a horrific accident. We were on a 3-lane road, with another 3-lane road going the opposite direction. There was a grass median. It appears that 2 cars had crossed the median and crashed into on-coming traffic, probably due to the fact that it was raining. Had we been 30 seconds earlier, it may well have been us they hit.

One of the cars was literally split in half--the back half separated from the front. We were clearly the first on the scene, even though we didn't see it actually happen.

I ended up being the one to call 911, but I was terrified to get out of the car and see the full extent of the damage. My husband got out, but there were other people there who had some sort of healthcare background, so he stayed out of the way... I was convinced no one could survive that wreck. (I was right.)

Calling 911 was nerve-wracking, because the operator guy kept asking me to go check the damage, and I was shaking and feeling sick and sitting in the car with my toddler, and I was not at all capable of going to check the wreckage. I just wanted to give him the location, and have them get emergency personnel there as fast as they could.

I give HUGE kudos to Emergency Responders. Those people are awesome. I have known many in my lifetime, because my dad (a doctor) worked with them at major sporting events in our home town. They never fail to amaze me. They do something few of us (most definitely including me) could do, and I'm glad they do.

GratefulTwinMom said...

I hate that time between when you hear/see/witness/are in some kind of disaster and how long it seems to take emergency crews to get there. I know that it's only minutes, but it sure seems like forever. I'm glad you were okay from your accident, and I hope the others from the more recent one were too.

Nicole said...

I was in an accident once. An econoline van ran a stop sign and T-boned my little Sunbird on the driver side. The car was spun around and landed on someone's lawn and I was SO disoriented for a long, long time.