Yesterday, I caught sight of a relatively horrific accident: a cyclist struck by a car whose driver seemed to be texting. I had sort of an aerial view as I was walking down a hill above the site of the scene, and it was one of those moments where as a spectator, you see what’s about to play out in the seconds before it occurs. I found myself praying out loud that one of the two parties would shift courses, as they seemed destined to crash; of course, this was futile. Thankfully, there were many bystanders besides me, and emergency services personnel arrived at the scene quickly. Being as sensitive as I am and scarred from my own attack, witnessing any sort of gory or scary incident (even fictitious on the television) floods me with anxiety and a feeling of sickness. After I descended the hill, my concern and need to verify that the cyclist was okay did motivate me to swarm with the other bystanders and survey the activities of the EMTs. However, within seconds, the blood and distressing sounds overwhelmed me emotionally and I felt my composure deteriorating, so I extricated myself from the scene after seeing the victim was in competent hands and there was nothing I could do to help (except give space).
Despite the fact that I was not involved in the accident, I found that I was shaky and nauseous as I walked away. I was also grateful for my own health and safety and relieved that the accident didn’t involve my loved ones. However, that thought filled me with guilt because those two people are other peoples’ loved ones and their lives are suddenly going to be changed. The driver seemed virtually unscathed, but the cyclist appeared potentially paralyzed, seemingly unable to move his lower extremities. I pray that he is okay, yet even if he is, he will be suffering physically, and likely psychologically, for some time. It’s jarring to crash on your bike and I can only imagine that getting hit by a car is even worse. (It’s also disturbing for witnesses; I had vividly graphic nightmares about physical trauma last night.)
Some tragedies occur in a matter of seconds. Although fortunately this was not as severe as it could have been, watching the moment of impact was a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the ripple effect that one decision can make. For example, it’s frighteningly commonplace to see drivers of all ages texting while operating their vehicle these days. Millennials and young adults are often blamed for this selfish and dangerous habit, but I have seen offenders of all ages. Needless to say, the avoidable catastrophes that result are often horrific and life-changing, while in the vast majority of all cases, the incoming text that is being is responded to or the outgoing message is not an urgent life-or-death matter. The selfishness and carelessness is disgusting; people think that they are exempt from the laws or rules, which are implemented for the safety of all of us and the systems we have in place.
I anticipate some technological advancement in the near future that somehow disables or deactivates phones while a vehicle is operating, but I can see many hurdles to such a program, particularly involving the freedom of passengers to use their electronic devices.
I’ve been routinely trying to consciously practice gratitude over the past year or so and it’s events like accidents that do tangibly and viscerally reinforce why every little (and big) thing (intangible and tangible) in our lives is worth acknowledging and appreciating. Even when things feel difficult or unfair or like circumstances we long to improve, we should count the blessings that surround us, fill our lives, and enrich our experiences here in the world.