Friday, December 15, 2006

A Short Trip

My wife and I flew to Orlando, Florida last Friday afternoon. My son picked us up and drove us north to his domicile in Gainesville where we spent Friday evening and all day Saturday. The highlight of our stay there was sitting on a wood deck overlooking Lake Alice on the UF campus. It was quiet and lovely. It's hard to believe that it lay more or less at the center of a huge university campus. Didn't spy any 'gaters, though.

Sunday afternoon we hit the road and drove to Savannah, Georgia. We spent the night and much of the next day there. What a beautiful city! We also took a trip out to Tybee Island where we walked the beach, and my son climbed the 150+ steps to the top of the lighthouse.

We returned to Savannah and, of course, took in the Mercer House and later ate lunch at the Gryffin (sp?) Tea Room which is owned and operated by SCAD - the Savannah College of Art and Design. That's good eatin'.

We hit the road around two in the afternoon and headed out toward Atlanta. I took the wheel just north of Macon as darkness fell. About 2 miles or so further north I looked ahead to see that the traffic in front of me was stopping short, and some cars were scattering out into the median. I slammed on the brakes, but quickly realized I could not stop before hitting the car ahead of me. I veered to the right into the center of the 3 lanes of the interstate. It appeared to be clear. I remember seeing a truck in my peripheral vision with the cab protruding into the far right lane at a right angle to traffic as we moved through the maze of cars. I thought, or at least hoped that we were clear. I saw some debris in the roadway running over it without damage, but a dark something else loomed ahead which I couldn't avoid. I hit whatever it was accompanied by two hard "bangs." I knew that was not a good thing. I kept control of the car and pulled off the roadway as quickly as I could.

All three of us got out of the car and looked to discover that both left tires were flat. We then looked back to where the chaos had ensued to see the box truck I had caught site of before and a semi-truck with a large open flat bed trailer on its side - the cab thrust up into the woods about 20 or 30 feet off of the roadway. It had begun to burn. There were a couple of people standing up on the cab of the semi assisting its driver out. Just as they cleared the wreck, the gas tank blew and the entire rig including its cargo - 3 or 4 large rolls of newsprint - went up with flames shooting high into the black night sky. Talk about your dramatic scenes.

Over the next several minutes state troopers, ambulances and fire apparatus began arriving. All north bound traffic was stopped. It took some time for the fire to be extinguished. Wreckers came to haul away the box truck and the remains of the now charred semi and trailer.

In the mean time, my son called AAA for a tow. We had no idea when a wrecker might arrive. If it was coming from the south, it could take hours. I found a trooper and told him of our situation. We were collateral damage. He wasn't particularly interested in our plight. He had bigger fish to fry, as it were. I did not want all of the emergency vehicles to pull out, leaving us disabled out in the country at the side of the interstate, in the dark. A fireman advised us that, if we were still there when the highway opened up, that we should get as far away from our car as possible. He said we should get back into the woods, because when the traffic started to move, it was likely to be chaotic. Our car might well get creamed.

Fortunately, the wrecker arrived, but was in the southbound lane. He told us that he could not cross the median as it was against the law, and he could be fined up to $700 for doing so. His only option was to head south and get at the rear of the halted traffic. That was crazy talk.

I took the wrecker driver, in tow and found a fireman to explain the situation. We ultimately got permission for the wrecker driver to cross the median. He did so and pulled our car up onto his rig. The three of us crammed into the cab of the wrecker along with the driver who took us some 20 miles northwest to the bustling metropolis of Barnsville, GA where his repair shop is located. There was no chance of getting tires that late, then well after 9:00PM. Fortunately, there was a motel, a Country Hearth Inn in Barnsville where we stayed the night. We had two meals at the Huddle House adjacent to the motel that night and on Tuesday morning. The uh - cuisine at the Huddle House was a bit high on the greasy side, but it was better than not eating at all.

Around noon my cell phone rang with the news that our car was repaired. Two tires and the tow came to just over $300. We got back on the road around 12:30 and made it back to Indy around eleven Tuesday night without incident.

Why am I recounting this little tale here? Well, there is this. Another driver who had been ahead of us on the roadway found himself directly next to the semi as it hit the cab of the box truck. This fellow had the presence of mind to hit the gas which managed to get him just ahead of the carnage. He was walking around talking at a near babble. He was really shook up. He claimed that he caught site of the semi driver's eyes as the truck was going over onto its side. He said that the guy had a look of absolute terror. He couldn't get that image out of his mind. As I indicated, the semi driver did make it out of the cab and was more or less unhurt. There were two people with the box truck, but they had gotten out and were standing well behind when the semi rammed into it. (They had gotten caught in mud off the road side and were stuck with the truck cab protruding out into the traffic lane. Pretty smart.) Somehow, no one got hurt.

The babbling fellow was busily praising god for his and everyone else's deliverance. He thanked jesus for getting the semi driver out of the truck safely. I know he was really shook up, but I hear this kind of thing so often. It wasn't god or jesus who delivered us from harm. First, it was luck. Just dumb luck. Second, the semi driver was saved by a couple of guys who braved the fire. Had they hesitated even for another minute, it is very likely that the driver would have died in that truck. The babbling driver saved himself by flooring his accelerator. If someone ahead of me had veered in front of us, or had the semi slid to the left rather than off into the woods, we would not have made it through with consequences unknown.

I find it disingenuous when people thank god for saving the day, when it was actually other people who rose to the occasion, and/or the luck of the draw that just happened to favor survivors of accidents or whatever unfortunate events people find themselves involved in. What about those who didn't come out alive or unscathed? They drew the loosing cards. It's just chance. Contrary to what a lot of people say, things do not happen for a reason.

Give credit where credit is due. God is no hero. It is, a fireman, your neighbor, or perhaps a stranger who saves the day. And, in the end, we are all subject to caprice - to chance, for good or ill.



bw said...

someone in our family recently died of cancer.. much credit was given to God on his mercy (after two years) much conjecture as to his 'greater plan' behind taking a woman in her forties was discussed. I'm not sure what kind of hope this gives anyone. This same god that they are praising... This accident and drawn out death had very little to do with God and more to do with life... and how little control we or anyone/thing has over it. I'm on my way out of the churches of the world... can't ever see adopting the atheist stance but i can no longer see questioning why someone would. Best. I'm sure I will be back. BTW, I'm from ATL.

Terry S said...

I believe that, not in the too distant future, not likely in time to help me (at 60,) humanity will have greater power over life and death through technology. But, again, it will have nothing to do with any god.

How people can possibly rationalize prolonged suffering and untimely death with "god's plan," I don't know. To do so is an insult to our intelligence, and it has the effect of absolving us from responsibility.

I'm sure that your journey will likely take time and thoughtful consideration regarding your ultimate stance on religion and the role of god, if any in your life. As you may know, there are a number of books and other very good web or blog sites that you might find useful. Some of them are noted on my site.

I have not spent any time in Atlanta proper. I have wiled away a number of hours at your airport over the years - but who hasn't?

A niece of my wife and her husband lived and worked in Atlanta for 4 or 5 years and loved it. They reluctantly left to come back to Indy in order to be closer to family.

As I indicated, Savannah is beautiful. It kind of takes your breath away at first view. Tybee Island was also interesting. On the other hand, we may not make additional stops in Barnsville any time soon. Did you know that Barnsville was the site of the first factory in the US which manufactured horse drawn buggies? Randy, our wrecker driver pointed that out to us.

I have a question. What might you know about the history of the Atlanta area during the period after the Civil War, especially regarding reconstruction and the education of blacks in the area?
We have an interest in such info that I can elaborate on if your interested. If not, that's fine as well.

Be well,


tina said...

This accident sounds like it could have come from a movie. I'm sorry that happened to you and your family. My family is the same way, everything good or bad is accredited to god. A good example is, "God saved me from dying in that house fire!" Or, " It was gods will that he passed away and god wanted him to be with him, he's in a better place." I enjoyed this post, thank you.

Terry S said...

I do find it maddening when you hear someone essentially disparages themselves after what may have been exceptional or even heroic behavior, instead giving credit to god. No god did anything.
The humility is forced.