"Are you okay?" she asked.
"I'm okay," I quivered, "but there's another lady, Mom. Please come."
I don't know how she got there, but she did, and I remember that she held me, and didn't ask many questions.
Soon, there was a helicopter. Firetrucks. Police. An ambulance. Walking out of the restaurant and back into the highway, I craned my neck to see around the emergency vehicles where the woman was lying. I wanted to go to her, but then I didn't. I wanted to rewind my life. Instead, I was escorted to the back of a police cruiser for questioning, and offered an ambulance. I felt fine. I didn't want to go to the hospital. I wanted to get on the plane and go to Arizona. I wanted to run, and quickly. I watched as the woman was lifted from the highway and loaded up to be taken to the hospital.
"Is she okay? Is she okay?" I asked, feeling the sobs well up inside of me.
She was alive, but badly hurt. That was all they would tell me. Again, I wanted to go to her, but then I remembered my flight.
"I can't go to the hospital. I'm fine. I have to catch a plane." I was completely irrational. My mind was barely my own. The police explained to me, "Do you see your car? That same impact went through your body. A few more inches into the intersection and you would have been killed instantly. Maybe just going to get checked out would be a good idea." A paramedic had joined him and was trying to change my mind too. Unfortunately, I was as stubborn then in my shock as I have been prone to be even when everything is normal. Giving up, they handed me a waiver to sign, refusing to be treated.
With my totaled car still in the intersection, I was taken with my mom to the police station. This was one of the first of many divine providences that intervened during that time. You see, I knew most of the cops on a first name basis. The dry cleaners I managed, was the one that the cops used to have their uniforms cleaned. They came in all the time, and we'd gotten to know each other. They would give me rides home if it was dark and I was walking home after work. I was more comfortable walking into the police station seeing so many familiar faces, than I would have been otherwise, though I was still scared out of my mind as to what my fate would be.
Routinely, I had to do a breathalyzer test. The police officer administering it had such compassion on me, and displayed such tenderness. He knew I was a Mormon, and had not been drinking, he just had to follow protocol. He asked if he could get me anything. Other officers came and put their arms around me, patted me on the back. They had such pity in their eyes, but at least knowing them gave me some comfort. When I was taken back to the office where my mom was waiting for me, my dad was there too. My dad. An attorney. A job he despised and yet excelled at. I've always wondered if part of the reason he became an attorney against stronger desires in his heart, was so he could help me through that time. He took charge, and was a calm, steadying influence for me.
Still, I couldn't stop worrying about the flight I was about to miss. And I could tell that my sanity was threadbare. I felt this strange coming-apartness in my soul that I didn't know how to deal with. Finally, I was taken home, and nothing more was said. Eight brothers and sisters and I don't recall a single one of them asking me any questions. Maybe they did and I blocked it all out. Maybe my parents had warned them to leave me alone, I don't know. But a shroud of silence and protection fell over me.
The next day I woke up sore. Very sore. Like I'd been pummeled. Word had trickled through the ward and phone calls started coming in. The concern was so nice, but I realized that so much was still up in the air, and I was that girl. The one who ran the red light. I was so ashamed, and wracked with guilt and worry over the woman who was in the hospital.
It was decided, I don't remember by whom, that there was no point in my staying home, and so another flight was booked to Phoenix, with the airport's full cooperation due to the circumstances. The accident had already been big news in the newspaper. So, with a much different cloud hanging over my head, I boarded a plane, and flew away.
. . .to be continued