This morning, my wife had to leave early for work.  While it’s not entirely uncommon for one of us to just keep sleeping as the other one gets up and gets dressed, for some reason I got up and milled about a bit this time, had a glass of orange juice and sat quietly with her while she loaded up her purse with all the stuff a pregnant lady tends to carry with her: a full box of Ritz crackers, four water bottles, a pack of sour candy she’s literally never liked before in her life, and so forth.

As she left the driveway at around 6:30, I trudged back into my bedroom, intent on getting another hour or so of sleep before starting my day officially.  I had just gotten myself settled in beneath the covers when my bedroom shook… there had been a sudden explosion of sound, like lightning had struck just outside my window.  Before I fully grasped what was happening, I was already back out of bed, heading for my porch, and for the awful sound of a car horn blaring; a sound I knew to mean the crash involved a car… and a driver that was no longer conscious.

My wife and I have been together for thirteen years – through all the best and all the worst of the Marine Corps – and just recently we became expecting parents for the first time.  As I slid my sweatpants on and took off sprinting down the road, all I could think about was my wife, and my baby, and that awful sound of the horn blaring… I prayed that when I got there, I wouldn’t see her little red Chevy Cobalt amid the wreckage.

I took a shortcut through the trees and emerged on the state route that leads to my little corner of the Georgia woods.  I should have been relieved to find that there was no red car in the turmoil, but as I approached the scene, I realized pretty fast that relief would not be forthcoming. 

Two pickup trucks had collided head on near the mouth of a bridge, and a few motorists had stopped to help.  Everyone got clear of the wreckage just as fire engulfed one of the trucks, and I settled in with one of the drivers on the side of the road.  He had a broken leg and was in shock, so I did my best to keep him calm and as still as I could.  From my vantage point, the other two guys looked to be in pretty rough shape… but they had police officers tending to them until the ambulances and fire trucks arrived just a few short minutes later.

I sat on the ground next to the guy whose truck was now nothing more than a smoldering wreck and tried to keep him talking.  We figured out right where it hurt and how to avoid putting pressure on it, and I consoled him as his fear and confusion started to manifest as anger and frustration.  He’s one tough guy – I’ve seen Marines fold under a lot less pain than he was managing.

We put my new friend’s cell phone and wallet into his cowboy boots and placed them on the end of his stretcher just before they took him away.  Although we exchanged first names, I doubt he’ll remember mine – and with good reason.  The first responders got there quickly, acted professionally, and hopefully, were able to save the lives of the other two men that looked to have lost more blood than my broken legged friend.  About an hour after I left my house, I gave my statement to the local and state police, and trudged my way quietly back home through the woods.