A day of wander and wonder, of disaster (other people) and near disaster (me).
Kris, Karen, Linda and I spent a leisurely early morning. Later, Linda took the other two women to the airport and I headed off on my second adventure: the Everglades and the Keys.
Me with Karen, Kris, and Linda.
I noodled my way back to Everglades City (truly a town – around 400 full-time residents) and points south. On my way there I stopped in a national park and went up a few roads not on my map.
At the intersection with the highway (HWY 29) to Everglades City, there’s a visitors’ information center next to a sheriff’s department building, each accessible from both highways (41, a north-south highway that goes primarily E-W, and 29 which goes pretty much N-S), so I pulled in, got a little info, and pulled out onto 29, headed north to a birding area.
Back at the intersection, I stopped for a blinking red light as did both the woman across the highway from me heading south and the person on 41 heading west. The woman across the highway began to cross HWY 41 and BLAM!!!
The cars running along Highway 41 have a blinking yellow light, not a red light, so although the person headed west had indeed stopped – causing me and apparently the woman heading south to feel it was a four-way stop – it was actually only a stop for those heading north and south.
The woman heading south was in the eastbound lane when she got slammed into. She shot a little further forward, stopping when she was right next to me. And then her car tipped sideways onto two wheels – my direction.
My first thought was CRAP! A RENTAL CAR AND I’M GOING TO HAVE TO PAY!!
My second thought was CRAP!!! SHE’S GOING TO LAND ON ME!!!
I froze. But there was nowhere I could go anyway. I was stuck there with her huge Suburban tilted at nearly a 30 degree angle. If it toppled my way, it would land on half my car – the half I sat in.
For a very, very long second or two, the Suburban just balanced on those two wheels. Then, thankfully, the car went back the other direction and landed on all fours.
Traffic immediately moved over and I hightailed it back to the sheriff’s office. No one answered when I pounded on the door, so I dialed 9-1-1. Eventually a uniformed man slugged his way to the door while I was on with the 9-1-1- operator. “Big wreck!” I shouted at him, gesturing toward the intersection. A few minutes later, from the back of the offices came a sheriff’s SUV that shot over to the wreck site.
I gave my name and phone number to the 9-1-1 dispatcher then walked over to the wreck.
The woman who was hit (and whose legal fault the accident was) seemed okay and she said she was fine, but I gave her a long hug and encouraged her to get checked out. I also gave the deputy my name and contact information. Then I got out of the way.
That’s about when all the terror hit me. I climbed shakily into my little, tiny, squishable rental and just sat until I felt I could safely maneuver. I went back to the intersection from 41 east and headed north onto 29, trying to block it all out of my mind.
And I was moderately successful due to the wonderful place I headed.
Deep, deep swampy area. Palms, and mangroves. Bay and holly. Pale, pinkish sea lavender and yellow St. John’s wort. Great blue herons with their six-foot-plus wingspan and great white ones. Egrets both snowy and great. Anhinga and ibis. All soothing to the soul after what could have been for me a serious, serious injury.
It took me three hours of wandering in car and on foot to feel I could head back past that intersection to get to my hotel. But return I did, just as the gray day turned to drizzle and the clay-sand road turned to muck.
I checked in at my motel and immediately headed further south to shoreline and sunset.
Back to my motel for a glass of wine and feelings of fragility. A deep sense of gratefulness that I had been spared. Concerns for those in the accident. I never saw the occupants (I have a vague recollection of two in the front seat) of the car that slammed into the other. Their car was totaled, I’m sure. The woman I met was young. She will heal. But what of the others?
No one from the sheriff’s department ever called me.
I had a restless night’s sleep.