By Joseph Walker
Lauren and Travis chatted casually as they drove down the highway. It was past dark – a little darker than usual because of a missing street light or two. But their mood was light and the music on the CD player was upbeat. It was a great night to be young and alive.
Suddenly the calm peacefulness of the evening was shattered by a flash of humanity as something crashed into the hood of the car and flew over the windshield.
“What was that!” Travis shouted as Lauren pulled the car to a screeching stop.
“I don’t know!” Lauren shouted back, her voice quivering. “I didn’t see anything!”
“You stay here!” Travis said firmly as he leapt from the passenger seat and ran to see what – or who – they had hit. “Call 911!”
Travis’ mind was racing as he ran to the crumpled body laying in the middle of the road. Why hadn’t they seen the woman darting across the road? Lauren was a good, attentive driver. They weren’t doing anything crazy in the car. They weren’t texting on their phones or rocking out to the music. And since neither one of them ever drank or did drugs, there was no chemical impediment involved.
What had happened?
When Travis got to the body there was no sign of life. His Boy Scout first aid training flashed through his mind, but he didn’t know where to start. He remembered hearing that in critical situations it is sometimes better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing, so he stood over the young woman’s body and directed traffic around her until help could arrive.
Eventually an off-duty emergency medical technician came on the scene and stopped to help. He took over wtih the girl on the road was dead, and Travis rushed back to Lauren, who was beside herself with grief and anguish for what had happened.
“I didn’t see her!” Lauren sobbed. “I honestly didn’t see her!”
Travis cradled Lauren in his arms to comfort and calm her until police and paramedics arrived. Law enforcement officials immediately checked to see if drugs, alcohol, speeding or texting were involved. Travis and Lauren were cleared on all of those accounts. Sadly, the girl who was hit was not. She had both drugs and alcohol in her system. As police put together information, they determined that the girl had dashed out in a misguided attempt to cross the highway at a point where it was impossible for Lauren to see her, much less stop for her.
Clearly, it was a senseless, heart-breaking tragedy for all concerned.
I hurt for the tragic loss of life – especially one so young, with unknown potential. I hurt for the young woman’s family and friends, who must now cope with their painful loss. And I hurt for Lauren and Travis, whose thoughts and dreams will be haunted by the things they saw and experienced that night. They too are victims here, as they innocently bear burdens and anguish imposed upon them through no choice of their own.
We like to think our choices are just that: our choices – that they are nobody’s business but our own. But every day we make choices that not only have the potential to impact others, but to change lives forever. Whether it’s a choice to have one more drink, or to take an illegal drug, or to dart across an unlit highway, our choices have consequences for ourselves and others. Well used, this God-given gift of choice allows each of us the opportunity to make the world a better place in which to live. Used poorly, however, it can result in untold pain and sorrow.
And turn a good night to be young and alive into a good night to die.