Dallas: 12:08 p.m. Monday, March 21, 2011
What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.–James (James 4:14 NIV)
At 12:08 p.m. my cellphone vibrated in my pocket during a meeting–I checked and realized it was my wife calling. I slipped out of the room to answer the call but my connection fail. I suspected she was lost in Dallas since she had plans to meet my daughter Jamie at Dallas Baptist University for lunch. I tried to call her back but my call went to voice mail. A moment later Robyn called again.
When I answered I could hear the fear in her voice and the sounds of sirens in the background. She blurted out “I have been in an accident.” There was a long pause and she added, “I’m alright but the car is totaled. Can you come to me?” Immediately my mind began to race as I thought about what I just heard.
Robyn shared that she on Central Expressway near downtown Dallas just before the Haskell exit. My meeting was just minutes from her location, so I grabbed a friend and we raced to the scene. As we neared the scene the traffic was backed up on both sides of the freeway. The police had closed the accident side for emergency vehicles, and the other side was slowed by onlookers. Our view was limited, but as we neared the scene I saw one car penned against the concrete barrier by a rock truck and a flood of flashing lights.
As we crossed the bridge to get to the scene, I caught a glimpse of Robyn standing alone by the retaining wall near the remains of our minivan that had given its life to protect my bride. I must admit it was one of the most beautiful sights in my life–seeing her standing there.
When we came to the entrance ramp to get down to her the police had it blocked, so I got out to inform the police officer that my wife was in the accident. He had a grave look on his face when he asked, “Have you spoken to your wife?” “Yes” I replied, “she called me and she is alright.” He signed and said, “I am thankful several have been taken away by ambulance.” At this point I realized what a gift I had received.
When I reached the scene, I quickly gave Robyn and hug and held her tight as I accessed the damage all around me. It was like standing the eye of a hurricane that had swirled all around me. There were damaged cars everywhere, and lost looks on the faces of the drivers who survived the storm relatively unhurt.
Robyn shared that she was driving down the freeway when the traffic began to slow. She hit her brakes and looked in the rear view mirror and saw the rock truck bearing down on her. She looked to either side for a way of escape, but both lanes were full, so she pumped her brakes hoping to get his attention. Apparent she got his attention but too late. He was pulling too much mass to stop and smashed into her from the rear–the rear window of the minivan exploded on the impact and glass pelted her driver’s seat.
The force of the collision threw Robyn’s van forward but thankfully no one was close enough for her to impact. At this point the truck driver pulled to the left and clipped a car which spun past Robyn out of control. From this point forward it was all a blur, but when the smoke cleared she looked around to see a car trapped against the wall by the rock truck. Two smashed up cars down the freeway twisted and facing the wrong way in traffic, and her van limping toward the shoulder.
In the matter of less than five seconds, the lives of everyone in the accident were impacted. I realize now, that if you change one of the details of this accident just slightly and I could have been left alone in Dallas–Robyn could have been gone in the twinkling of an eye.
To be frank in the moment I was not nearly as afraid as I am now. In the moment there was too much happening–there was too much to process. Now I realize what a gift I hold in my hand.
James was right, our lives are just a “mist.” There standing on Central Expressway, I was reminded how precious life really is–and I held Robyn just a little tighter.
Postscript: Robyn has a fracture of her left elbow and a sore neck. She also has a family that is thrilled to have her home.