Tonight I saw something terrible. I saw a man hit by a car so hard that he came out of his shoes. He landed four meters away. We were two cars back, my friend and I, and we had just gotten out of class and were headed home. She gave me a ride at the last second, because my bus was running late. We didn’t see the accident, we heard it. And then we heard screaming, and I went to see if I could help. And so I was one of the first people to reach his side. There was nothing I could do for him except wait with him until the ambulance reached us, and make sure no one moved him, because he was very badly hurt. Someone was already checking his breathing and pulse, someone was already calling 911. People came running to help the man, and to help the driver, who was beside herself. The driver was a young woman, and she got out of her car and crouched on the ground and screamed and screamed and screamed, making this keening cry that will haunt me for a long time.
I will hold them both in the Light tonight, for I saw two lives ruined today in a few precious seconds. There is nothing else I can do for him, or for her. I’m very sorry that I didn’t think to ask for her phone and use it to call her mother, because she’s going to need her mother tonight, and in the days to come, as she regrets and relives those seconds before her life blew apart. I would imagine that she’s at the police station right now. I know that he is at the hospital, because I saw him loaded onto a stretcher before I walked away.
Because I cannot do anything to turn time back by those few precious seconds, I am sitting here, praying for them both. In Chapel Hill – all over the world – these accidents happen far too often. And that is what it was – a terrible accident. It happened so fast, and my first thought was if we could just have these few seconds back, it would all be alright. If only we could. But because we cannot – let’s all slow down, be more careful than we are rushed. Let’s look both ways, let’s follow the speed limit, let’s put our cell phones away when we drive, let’s wait for the crosswalk to light up…let’s take a deep breath and be grateful for the lives that we have – for they can change so fast. And for those of you who are willing, for the two people whose lives changed at the corner of Franklin and Columbia today, let us hold them in the Light.