I thought this would be a funny little post about how I went to traffic school tonight and was actually looking forward to the three hours alone. Well, not really alone--in a room full of about 23 other traffic violators. But it would be time where I could sit quietly and not be responsible for changing diapers, assigning timeout, or navigating the wonderful world of sibling rivalry. That’s not quite how things turned out. Not at all.
About thirty minutes into Sergeant Joe Cawry’s promotion of the seatbelt, he shared a personal experience describing the worst accident he’s responded to in his entire police career. Here goes (I mean it. It’s disturbing.):
A mother leaves her son’s baseball game with three of her children belted into the back of her minivan. Her husband follows behind her with their 9-year old son and his teammates. They’re all going to get ice cream.
As she’s driving she misses a stop sign and passes through a fairly harmless intersection. Another minivan broadsides her on the driver’s side. Obviously she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. Somehow (and I think I’ve blocked out the details) she was decapitated. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the officers receive word that the 9-year old son is missing. They finally found him. He had climbed to the top of a tree and wouldn't come down. Wouldn't let anyone touch him.
By this point in his story I’m near tears, so disturbed that I’m shaking. Not because of the decapitation so much as the son witnessing his mother’s gruesome death and trying to escape the scene as best he could. It’s that image, the boy clinging to a tree limb, that will haunt me for the next few weeks. But the story’s not over (although it does get better):
The mother in the other minivan had a two-month old baby buckled into a car seat that wasn’t secured with the seatbelt. The crash catapulted the baby in the carseat from the minivan where it flew 100 yards before skidding another 30. The baby was fine.
I’m sharing this story for two reasons. One, I’m selfish. Writing is therapeutic and I’m hoping that putting this into words will purge the images from my mind. And two, if anyone out there, especially a parent, doesn’t wear a seatbelt, please start today. I can’t stand the thought of another child experiencing what that nine-year old boy did that day. We take care of our children best when we take care of their parents.