Wednesday morning, on his way to school, a seventeen-year-old local boy was killed in a collision with a school bus.
When I was seventeen, I met and then moved in with the man that would, eight years later, become my husband. I remember feeling at the time that I was such an adult.
Of course, it is clear to me now that I was just a child, but it wasn’t until I looked at the face of that lost boy staring back at me from our local newspaper that I realized just what babies our children still are at seventeen.
Obviously, a big difference between the “me at seventeen” and the “me now” is that I have children of my own: two girls, who are running around me as I write this, and a boy that I am still carrying, but that will one day be driving himself to school, probably in this very same town. Looking at the picture I understand just what has been lost and how thin the thread that tethers our children to the Earth and to us is.
I didn’t know this family very well, in fact it is only through bumping into them around town with Eric, who had business with the family, that I knew them at all. But there is something about being so close to something so awful that has made it hard to even breathe for the last five days. In this small town the sirens of rescue vehicles are rarely heard at all, and when they are the sound carries from one end of the streets to the other. Everyone here knows immediately when something awful has happened.
All day Wednesday, after the cries of the sirens had died down, I looked at the clear blue sky and thought, “This is the day that someone lost their child. I am at the library with my children just like any other day and the world has stopped for someone else in this very town.”
While the loss of even one child is too many, this town has seen more and the losses of those children pile up in my head and in my heart. They change how I move through the world.
Every time I drive down Highway 69, just south of our little town, I feel compelled to look at the marker on the side of the road where a teenage girl lost her life this spring in a car accident.
I do the same when ever I pass the spot on I-35 where, not even two years ago, Megan and I happened by the burned out wreckage of what had been the car of a local 21-year-old and her 4-month-old baby, the empty infant car seat resting on the side of the road. Both were killed in the accident as well as the driver of the other car.
These spots are like talismans to me, like wood I am compelled to knock on to feel some psychic control over my own children’s safety. I look at the spots, I imagine the horror the families felt, and I pray that it doesn’t happen to us.
For better or worse the world will go on, like it always does. As awful as this all is, the human mind continues forward. This Wednesday the town will dress our children up and celebrate Halloween with just a week between this loss and us. Eric and I will continue to plan excitedly for the boy that will soon join our family and hold the girls close.
But today is Sunday, and two hours ago Marty Davis’ family buried their only child and these blessings of ours seem almost too much to hold.
To read a newspaper account of the accident go to: