Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 20, 2012

Harter: Incident report

Nathan Harter
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — I saw a car wreck today.

Karin was driving us, and we both saw two small cars strike each other in the intersection ahead of us. Not more than a quarter mile before, the red VW had zipped in and out of lanes at a high rate of speed, as the twenty-something driver swerved around us, leading Karin to make a remark.

The orange Nissan was turning right in front of the speeding red car. Bam! The front struck her on the right back panel, spinning her violently. Somehow, he was able to keep his lane and came to a halt 20 yards ahead. Immediately, we pulled over. Karin heard a child screaming and jumped out to investigate. I called 9-1-1. A crowd quickly gathered.

Abrupt violence shakes you up. A million thoughts clutter your mind. Your senses are suddenly alert. Soon, you find yourself just appalled and distressed. In a twinkling, two cars were totaled. The woman had two children in the car, and she wasn't sure she wanted the medical personnel to check on her boys, because she had no insurance. Auto fluids flowed to the curb. Traffic snarled behind us.

Driving away later, Karin and I noted how grateful we are that so far none of our family has been in such a wreck. Our kids are over 18 now and licensed, but the fear never quite goes away. They could be driving safely and still find themselves crunched by some idiot texting her bff. ÒSo far, so good,Ó we thought.

These things happen daily in a metropolis. Broken legs, car engines up in smoke, whiplash, gashes, nightmares, lawsuits, and so it goes. Apparently, this is the risk we accept by joining life's traffic. But that doesn't mean you should ever get used to seeing it with your own eyes.

Some folks (like me) wax philosophical when a leaf flutters to the ground. We read into every incident, searching for meaning, wondering what God might have intended for us to learn from the experience. We filter such events heavily, even after we head on down the road. Look, I'm even writing about it two hours later.

You don't know these people. You weren't there. The collision has no impact on you whatsoever. You're a mountain range away. It's not unusual that it happened. It's all cleaned up by now.

For all I could tell, nobody was seriously hurt. Still, I think it is good every so often to ponder the way reality unfolds. It puts the moment into context.

Karin talked with the screaming boy until he had calmed down and emergency personnel arrived to conduct a more systematic examination.

Her elementary school teacher demeanor kept him focused, while the mother at fault wandered all over, uncertain what to do next. Karin smiled that smile, giving one child a moment's grace, then we left to go pick up her sewing machine at the shop.

And to think, I witness that smile nearly every blessed day.