Lives change in an instant

Smoke from crash on I-80I was directly above the point of impact about 8:30 a.m. on Friday when a westbound semi loaded with steel hit the I-80 overpass bridge I was on. I was on my way to the office when I heard and felt the thud and saw a cloud of dust rise up between the northbound and southbound overpasses. My first thought was that the pylon driver for the new walking/bicycling bridge was still working, but when I pulled on to the shoulder and stopped, I could see that construction could not account for the apparent impact, so I reasoned there must be an accident on the Interstate. I fumbled with my phone and punched in 911; it must have taken a dozen rings before the dispatcher answered. In the meantime, I had climbed out of the car and started back toward the accident—avoiding oncoming traffic and especially other cars pulling off onto the shoulder where I was walking with my phone to my ear. I finally got through to the 911 dispatcher and discovered I was not the first caller. I was about to cross the road when there was the roar of an explosion; a huge fireball threw flames at least 20 feet above the bridge. A cloud of thick black smoke followed a few seconds later. There was another explosion as I reached the top of the embankment and two more smaller explosions soon followed; I couldn’t see anything through the smoke but a man clambered up out of the cloud and told me that the driver had been pulled from the wreck and a passenger not wearing a seatbelt remained in the cab as it exploded. Just about that time, emergency vehicles began to arrive and I decided my best contribution would be to get out of the way as firefighters headed over the embankment with hoses. In an instant someone died and someone else was seriously injured. Someone would be calling their loved ones. The spouses of the responders would be hearing the sirens and wondering. In an instant two passers-by on the Interstate dragged the driver from the cab, barely missing being engulfed in the initial explosion. I felt sick. Soon I was in the familiar surroundings of the church office reflecting on how our lives sometimes turn in an instant. Chance meetings sometimes result in lifelong friendships and near misses can have the same result as missing by a mile. I was grateful to God to have another usual day in ministry and to be seeing two grandchildren that afternoon.

Peace, John