that unforgettable day
...I immediately searched the area for Alyce and finally saw her on the corner of the street amid a number of passersby and bus passengers. She was standing there crying, a stranger comforting her.
I ran up to her and pulled her into my arms. As she buried her head into my chest, sobbing, I looked beyond her to the car and thought, Oh, my God, how is she even still alive? She was covered in tiny shards of glass, in her hair, on her clothes, but uninjured…and she had been in the front seat! I held onto her, unable to believe the miracle of her. I remember thinking, Am I really holding on to my baby girl? Or have I gone crazy and she’s actually still in the front seat of the car and I’ve slipped into some other reality where my brain created this alternative universe, unable to cope with having lost her? I held her tighter. Still, I couldn’t imagine if I had run up to this horrific scene and found her body, limp in the front seat of the accordioned car.
I brushed the glass and tears off her cheeks, bent down, and asked her if she was okay. Did she hurt anywhere? She shook her head no.
As I held her, I could see the emergency crew cutting the roof off the car to reach Susan, still trapped in its crumpled frame.
“Wait right here, baby, okay? I want to go check on Mommy.”
She nodded, still crying, afraid of what I was going to find in the driver’s seat.
I let go of her and walked toward the car. As I approached, I first saw the passenger side, the deflated air bag, the destroyed interior, the door completely popped off, strewn on the sidewalk. I again shook my head in disbelief that Alyce had walked away from this.
And then I saw Susan inside.
She was conscious, but pinned under the dashboard and steering wheel, her air bag also deployed and deflated. There was no front windshield—there was no front end, for that matter—but by some miracle she was conscious and reaching with her left arm for someone to help her. There was some blood on the air bags, but I couldn’t see the source. Honestly, I couldn’t see much of anything.
She blindly called out for someone to help her, anyone, her eyes not focused. I shouted to her, but she couldn’t hear me. I yelled again, but I was too far away. I tried to move closer to let her know I was there, but a policeman or paramedic held me back. “You need to clear the area, sir.”
And that was my cue to recite my line in this surreal movie scene. “I’m her husband.”
The officer was compassionate but continued to usher me away. Susan still didn’t know I was there, didn’t know Alyce was okay. She was alone in her hell, and I was helpless.