tw: graphic details about a car accident.
This past Thanksgiving, a family member told me about her experience being the first person on the scene of a fatal head-on collision while she was travelling at night on a road trip this summer.
My aunt was close enough to witness the accident, but not close enough to be hit herself.
She and a few other drivers pulled over to help in whatever way possible before paramedics arrived. Knowing they were far from any major centre, it would be a while before EMT would make it to the scene.
Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do for the lone occupant of one of the vehicles, who appeared to have been killed on impact.
There was some life left in the second vehicle, though – two men and a dog. But, the vehicle was on fire. This made approaching the vehicle terribly dangerous, but also made their work as helpers all the more important and urgent. Every minute those men spent in the vehicle they were exposed to more burns and smoke, and they were increasingly at risk of an explosion.
The helpers quickly freed the dog and managed to unbuckle the mens’ seatbelts. But, lifting two incapacitated grown men out of a burning vehicle and to a safe distance proved much more difficult than anticipated. Working tirelessly together as a team, themselves at increasing risk of burns and explosion every minute they toiled, the helpers got the men to safety just moments before the car exploded.
Finally, paramedics arrived to provide life-saving medical care and transport to the nearest hospital for the two badly injured men. The police arrived to assess the scene and take reports from all who witnessed the accident.
When there was nothing left for them to do, the helpers all got into their own separate vehicles and drove off to their own separate lives to process their own trauma in what they’d just experienced.
My aunt described feeling like she and the other helpers had formed a little family for the few hours they spent working together toward their common goal. She remarked at how strange it feels that they all just vanished from each other’s lives forever after they achieved it.
I’ve heard before (and experienced) that shared adversity has a special way of bringing people together. In the 18 months I spent working in Student Learning and Transitions, I felt more and more connected with my work family with each bump in the road we faced together. There have been many shared challenges (some more arduous than others) but I’m proud to have been a part of the team that overcame them all. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve alongside them, to lean on them, to learn from them, and to watch as they stood up together and grew.
While their important work continues, the time has come for me to get in my own car and drive off to face new challenges with a new team. But unlike the helpers at the scene of that accident, I have no intention of vanishing. I’m confident that the familial connections we made will survive the distance between our offices – it’s really not that far!
I hope that we can still find time for discussion, mutual support, and the odd laugh over lunch.
By the way, I know you’re wondering: The two men and the dog survived the accident and were reunited. And I know the ardent helpers in SLT will make it to the other side of their next challenge too.