Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Conscience and How the Death of an 11-month-old Jarred it Awake

There's this section of freeway near my house called the Arroyo Seco Parkway that twists and stretches for only a few miles from downtown LA to Pasadena.  It's, I think, the first freeway built in Los Angeles, and was probably meant for driving Model A's at about 25 miles an hour.  Today, it's heavily traveled at average speeds of 60 to 70 miles an hour.  Problem is, there is no shoulder and you have to slow down to about 20 for the exits.  Even the on-ramps are so short, that drivers have to come to a complete stop before accelerating to join the sea of traffic.  This freeway is also dangerous.  Like I said, it's twisty.  A stalled car can cause a massive pile-up.  I am hyper vigilant every time I drive on it. (DG drives it every day. *nervous*).

Last week, there was a tragic accident on this freeway.  A stalled car was rear-ended by an SUV and burst into flames.  The driver got out, but couldn't get out her 11-month-old baby.  She tried.  Good Samaritans from the nearby neighborhood tried, but no one could save the baby.

This tragedy is still affecting me so much.  I'm deeply saddened for that poor mother who could not get the child from the car seat.  I'm angry at the lack of consciousness of droning drivers in LA who are either distracted or zoned out to actually take driving as the serious job that it is.  But mostly, I'm disturbed by the accounts that several cars slowly moved beyond the accident on their way to their next thing.  People were on phones (no doubt reporting the accident 9 million times), but motorists didn't stop.  And the reason this bothers me so much is because I wonder what I would have done had I come upon this scene.  Would I have driven by rationalizing that others were handling the situation, or would I have stopped and helped in whatever way I could, even if it was just to support the brave souls who burned themselves trying to get the baby out?

I'm convinced, for whatever it's worth, that I probably would have driven past, praying that someone would save the day and everything would turn out alright.  I know myself, and I think that getting involved would have meant perhaps jeopardizing my own children's safety (there's no shoulder!) or maybe mine.  But I find myself disturbed at this reaction.  I wasn't there.  This was not a situation that I would have even had to make a decision about, but I'm finding myself disappointed in myself for not acting in the scenario in my head where I drive by this accident. 

Life is so fragile.  We never know what's around the corner that could lift us up to unbelievable heights of success or drop us to the pit of tragedy.  My moral compass feels very selfish at this thought.  I worry that, for myself, I've forgotten what community is and how we're supposed to work together to the end of peaceful, joyful existence for all, and when difficulties strike, we're supposed to walk each other through it, selflessly.  I need to remind myself that I'm part of a larger fabric, and that giving of myself, in whatever way I can, is the right thing to do.

No one could have saved that poor baby.  It was an accident, and if you believe in fate or God or whatever universal force decides these things, you can go on about your day with the thought that that baby's death was a catalyst for something else: a re-vision of that freeway with safety updates, infant and toddler car seats with remote control ejector buttons for the straps (I don't know), or a change in me, a decision to act more globally for the good of everyone.  One step at a time, I guess.


clueless but hopeful mama said...

Oh lady. This hurts my heart. I know that exact stretch of freeway - and others like it - and unfortunately, if everyone stopped to help, there could have been more accidents, with more lives lost.

I was trained as an EMT in college and stopped at an accident once. I was the first person there and several people were injured, I had training and yet I felt so helpless and overwhelmed. I did basically nothing but hold people's hands, even though they were in terrible pain and we were all so relieved when the ambulance arrived.

There often is little you can do. And that is just awful

Suzanne Grani said...

Recently while bicycling, my son & a car went thru an intersection together. The car braked suddenly to avoid hitting a jogger. My son also braked & swerved, but knocked the jogger off her feet & ended up laying his bike down, sliding thru the crosswalk, resulting in lots of road rash & several stitches. Afterwards, the car? It just maneuvered around them and kept going. They are the ones without conscience or heart. To be directly involved and not stop is unfathomable to me. But as a passerby, it may not always be safe to stop, as in your case. Granted some people do stop & help, we call them heroes. Not all of us are heroes. I probably would not have stopped either, unless it was 100% safe to do so.

Good Enough Mom said...

I would have a hard time getting over this story. When I hear things like this, it's like my mind goes simultaneously in many directions--into the body and experience of the mom and also of the baby. Can you imagine her nightmares? It's funny because there are days when I totally resent motherhood. Yet the idea that either of my children could be unsafe paralyzes me.