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June 27th, 2006
04:15 pm


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Not A Typical Lunch Break
Melville, Long Island, June 27, 2006 - First, I should explain that Route 110 is a major north-south thoroughfare; my office building is right on it. Where this story takes place, there are three lanes. In addition to the three travel lanes, there's a left-turn lane onto Ruland Road and a wide shoulder to the right (there is no right turn, but there is a little shopping center before the light). Got it?

So it's lunchtime and I'm heading south on Route 110 on my way to Target and Taco Bell. I'm in the middle lane. In the left lane, I notice a bunch of broken glass and car parts, so traffic slows and I move to the right lane. Then I notice that there's a car stopped and facing the wrong way in the right lane. So instead of getting back over to the middle lane (where I just was and where everyone else is), I move over to the right onto the shoulder. As I pass the car in the right lane, I see that the driver's side is completely smashed in. And the woman sitting in the driver's seat is, oh, probably in her mid-twenties. And...

Uh, wait, there's a car with a completely smashed-in driver's side, and there's woman sitting in the driver's seat. And she's bawling her eyes out. Holy crap.

So I stopped my car so my window is opposite hers and ask what is probably a very stupid question:

"Are you okay?"

She keeps crying. I try another stupid question:

"Do you need help?"

This time, she nods and yells for someone to help her. So I take out my phone, wait what seems like 47 minutes for it to turn on, dial 911, and report the accident. Not that I have any idea how the accident happened - I didn't see it take place at all. But I was the only one with this woman and I had no idea if anyone else had called. I can't imagine I was the first one to call, but who knows?

By this time, about a dozen other men (yeah, just men - weird) have shown up to see if she's okay, so I didn't get a good look to see how injured she is, nor did I get to ask her, either. In fact, at this point, I'm still sitting inside my car. But she seems okay; her arm is scraped and bleeding, but not terribly so, and she seems to be able to move it. Can't see her legs, but nobody is overly panicked, so I assume that's a good sign. And she's calmed down a bit, too.

She asks if anyone has a phone, so I give mine to the guy standing next to her, and he gives it to her, and she is too frazzled to dial, so she gives the phone back to him, and he for some reason can't dial, either, so he gives it back to me and she tells him the number and he tells me because I can't hear her and I dial. And I give the phone back to him and he finally leaves a message for her father. Not very efficient, but hey.

I finally notice two other cars smashed up in the left-turn lane. I can't figure out how the accident happened; probably someone pulled out of the shopping center and cut someone off, but who? I never find out. Anyway, there are men standing outside the cars; I don't think anyone there is hurt too badly. A gas station attendant who heard (but didn't see) the crash comes over to see if anyone called the police. A deli owner comes over with towels and a cooler full of ice. I'm feeling rather useless, and when the police and firetrucks show up, I know I'm useless. And in the way. It's kind of awkward just standing there, but it felt awkward to leave. Just then, my phone rings; it's her dad. He asks what's the matter; I say there's been an accident, and I think she's hurt, but okay, and it's on Route 110 and Ruland Road. The man from before says she wants to talk to her dad, so I hand him the phone and he hands her the phone. I don't know what she says. I'm assuming some variation of what I told her.

I get my phone back, some more ambulances show up, she says she can get out of the car, but the firemen tell her not to climb over the middle, and go to work on the door with the Jaws of Life so they can get her out, while a policeman puts a neck brace on her.

Nobody asks me to leave (nobody seems interested in whether I'm there or not), but I figure I may as well. My work here is done. I leave my name and phone number with the man and head off to Target, where it takes me way too long to decide on which shampoo to buy.

I'm also oddly shaken up by the experience, almost as much so as my own accident. While I'm thinking about that, still in Target, her dad calls me again - he's stuck in traffic on Route 110 (lunchtime is *not* the time you want it to be reduced to one lane), and asks me how far the accident is from where he is. Now I feel kind of bad for leaving. I tell him he's only like a quarter mile away, and even though he sounds rather calm, I assure him I think she's okay. He thanks me for all my help (which was awkward - I didn't really do much of anything), and I wish him luck and ask him to let me know how everything turns out...

I tried the new Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme at Taco Bell. It's okay.

(No photo; I didn't have my camera with me, and I didn't think of using my cell phone to take a picture...)

UPDATE: The dad called back that evening to tell me that his daughter is fine. She was released from the hospital, with a little whiplash and some splinters from the broken glass, but nothing broken. That's good to hear. He again thanked me profusely, which was also good to hear, albeit a bit embarassing. I still don't know how the accident happened, though...

(Yay! 2 comments! | Please leave a comment!)

Date:June 27th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)

Good, Samaritan.

It sounds like you did good, Peter.

You never know how you'll respond to an emergency like that until you're there.

We were in Colorado 2-3 years ago, driving from DIA out to the desert on I-76 to visit family. I was sitting behind the driver, and I saw a car pull by us with a woman asleep in the back seat. I idly wondered whether she was wearing a seatbelt (not, as it turned out) and remembered lying across the back seat when I was a kid driving cross-country.

Anyway, about 10 miles on, there's the car again, but this time it's in the broad grass median. The car went straight when the road curved and flipped over 3 or 4 times. The lady from the back seat is now lying on the dashed white lines in oncoming traffic. Cars are sliding by halfway in the shoulder. My wife, the doctor, has us stop by the roadside and she and I walk over to the opposite side. The woman is lying unconscious with lots of bruises and abrasions, and I think several broken limbs. She was bleeding out her face, but still breathing. Her bare feet are very clear to me, lying all scratched on the road.

[So strange to stand in the middle of an interstate. Blood on the pavement.]

The man driving the car was basically unhurt (wearing a seatbelt, airbag), but seemed far more concerned with his runaway dog than his wife.... The other dog was dead. "The last thing she asked me was whether I was too sleepy to drive," he said.

My wife and some other doctors/EMTs who had stopped checked the woman's vitals, but there wasn't much else they could do. "Closed head injury" they said. She was bleeding inside her head, but no way to get in and stop it. I got to run back to the car for the stethoscope.

Then the ambulance/police/fire arrived, and we stepped back. Shook hands with the other Samaritans. Drove away.

My cousin Dave is a sherrifs' deputy and happened to be directing traffic up the road a mile or two. The man called the police office about the dog, and told them that the woman survived her first surgery. Dave said they don't usually find out what happens to the victims of accidents. They see the most traumatic, horrible event in a person's life, and maybe even save that life, but they never know the rest of the story.

I had trouble sleeping for a while.
[User Picture]
Date:June 28th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Good, Samaritan.

Sounds far more traumatic than my story! More of an emergency, too - the woman in my story was conscious and didn't have any obviously huge problems. It was the perfect accident for my decided lack of expertise. A couple cars drove by on the shoulder in front of me before I stopped, ignoring (or maybe not noticing) the woman in the car. I almost drove by, too, just because I see accidents all the time and usually there are already people there helping. It was only after I realized that nobody else was there yet that I should do something...

Anyway, good for you for stopping! I imagine the man was probably just panicked and wasn't thinking straight. Good to hear that others were thinking straight in his stead.

(PS - do I know you? I don't recognize the username...)

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