A good friend asked me to recount a night in the 90’s when a horrible thing happened to some friends of ours. I’m not going to put in any names of the people in the accident, because of the circumstances, but it’s still a story and I’ll try to remember what I can of it. This story isn’t intended to lay blame, but to try and drive home how stupid and thoughtless it is to drink and drive, or allow someone else to.
I can’t really remember how old I was, but I’m guessing at eighteen or nineteen, because of the car I was driving, and the crowd I was out with. My buddy Steve and I went out to a pit party at the Centreton sand dunes. I wasn’t drinking, but Steve had had a couple, and it was starting to get out of hand around there. There was one rich kid that was trying to burn his quad, because he was drunk, and an ***hole. A bunch of others were just getting stupid. I guess it was because they were all younger than us, so we decided to take off, and head for Harwood. As we were getting our proverbial “sh**” together, we noticed some really good friends were leaving too, so we stopped to chat. I noticed that the girl driving was pretty wasted, so I tried to talk her out of leaving, and we tried to get everyone out of the van. The driver told me that someone else was going to drive (I think it was her brother or something like that), and that they really weren’t leaving right yet, so I asked my friends to please not go with her, and I’d give them a ride. They said that they wouldn’t, and I left it at that.
I got in the car and started to drive Steve and I home. We were just driving along, shooting the shit, and we had made it to the Centreton Rd. – Hwy 45 intersection when we turned right and started to go north. There had been headlights coming up behind us pretty fast when we got there, and I wondered if it was the OPP, so I was looking in the rearview to see if they had turned the corner. Steve was looking in the side mirror when all of a sudden the lights were spinning through the air, and whipping all around. We realized that someone hadn’t seen the stop sign in time, and had rolled across the highway.
We turned around fast, and went back there to find the girl’s van on it’s wheels, and one of our friends strapped into the passenger seat. She was frantic, and trying to get her seatbelt off and open her door. We tried to calm her down and find out where the other two were, because there was no one else in the van. She was hysterical, and rightly so. I asked her to please go across the road to the restaurant, and call 911 to get the ambulance there as soon as possible. We heard moaning coming from under the van, and looked in to find our other friend pinned underneath. The axle was on her head or neck, and she was not in good shape. She started screaming about the pain from the van being on her. Somehow we lifted the van up, and got her out from under it. I don’t remember who had stopped to help, but I’m sure that Steve and I didn’t lift the van, and pull her out all by ourselves. Her neck was in bad shape, so I got Steve to stay with her and keep her calm and lying still, and I went to the other side of the van to see what had happened to the driver.
She was a little way from the van, and was conscious, but seemed incoherent. I went over to her and tried to talk to her, but then she started to freak out. I noticed that she had what looked like a hole in her head, and she was banged up pretty bad. I guess she was thrown about fifteen or twenty feet from the van, so you can imagine there was some bruising and swelling. I got her to settle down, and held her head until the Baltimore Fire Department arrived and took over. I was just trying to keep her calm by stroking her hair and talking to her, because you could see the terror in her eyes. When the firemen came, and then the ambulance, I was relieved beyond measure. I was so scared that one of them was going to die, and there would be nothing we could do about it.
I’m sure it was much worse than I remember, and I imagine I’m leaving out a bunch of my own freaking out and not knowing what to do, but it was at least twenty years ago, and I really had a hard time recalling the events. I think it’s been at least ten years since I’ve even thought about it, so when Rachel brought it up last night, I started to think about how I could tell a story that I maybe don’t remember as well as I should. I then thought that it was worth trying to remember, because of the fact that the driver had been drinking, as were the passengers. All of them were begged not to go, and had assured us that they wouldn’t, but did anyway. I was pissed about that for years, but looking back, I’m now very angry with myself for allowing that to happen. I should have taken the keys from that girl, and made them find another way home, or get in with us, and I’d drive them to where they were going. Because of my poor judgement, my friends were very nearly killed that night. Luckily they were all given second chances.
I urge all of you, no matter what your age, size or gender is, to do whatever you can to get the keys from someone who’s drinking, and don’t ever trust a drunk person to do what’s right. If they tell you they aren’t driving, then they shouldn’t have a problem giving you their keys for safe keeping. If they won’t, then wrestle them away from them, trick them, or knock them the f**k out, but get the keys from them. You won’t be able to live with the remorse if you don’t and something terrible happens. Remember that just because my friends and I got a second chance, doesn’t mean everyone else will too. I’ve felt horrible rethinking that night, and trying to remember my actions, but I’m thankful to Rachel for reminding me about it, and ultimately changing my perspective on who’s responsible for who’s life.
I think we are all responsible for each other when someone isn’t able to think for themselves. Alcohol affects our judgement, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy it, I’m just saying we aren’t always thinking straight when we do, so if you see a friend in trouble, help them out. They will thank you the next day, even though they will call you a no good so and so that night. I’d rather be a so and so that gets to hang out with my friends the next day, and I don’t mean going over to put peroxide in the pinholes that her halo put in her scalp and skull. I have done that once, and as crappy of a job as it is, it’s better than her not being here to do it for.
And when your brother is troubled, you’ve gotta reach out your hand for him, ’cause that’s what it’s there for,