It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. It’s a 3.5 hour drive on average, sometimes longer if it’s a holiday weekend.
Dickerson, Maryland to Bethany Beach, Delaware. Easy-Peasy. No Sweat.
My Captain was masterfully driving the mini-van through the crowded, busy speedway that is Interstate 495. I kept a steady stream of inane banter going to entertain him. I’m sure he appreciated it greatly. Who wouldn’t? Incessant drivel….it’s one of my charms.
Then it happened, his entire body tensed and he slammed on the brakes. The sickening sound of squealing tires on asphalt filled the air. We all held our breaths and waited for the painful crunch.
But none came. My Captain’s evasive maneuvers training (from when he was a Fire Marshall) had kicked in, and he managed to escape the crash. He was totally channeling Burt Reynolds in Smokey and The Bandit as he angled our car away from harm in the split second that this all went down.
Four or five cars in front of us were not so lucky, unfortunately. There were asphalt bits, smoke and debris flying everywhere. Cars spinning. Cars leaving the highway at weird angles. The sound of impacts among the trees along the side of the road.
And then it was over as fast as it happened.
My Captain pulled the van over to where a man holding a baby had just bolted out of one of the spun cars. My Captain dropped me off to take care of him, and then went further up the road to the cars that had careened off the highway and into trees.
The man with the baby held his head, looking baffled and stunned. I took his son and had him get all the way off the road as I began asking him questions as ingrained in me as they were back when I was a paramedic.
My Captain was knee-deep in poison ivy helping a woman who had T-boned a tree. Sirens could be heard in the distance.
I moved the man and his son out of the hot sun and into our air conditioned and quiet minivan, as we waited for the medic unit.
The fire department from Prince George’s County arrived, My Captain gave them the update of the situation, and everyone eventually was taken to the proper rescue apparatus. Traffic was well and truly hosed. The mayhem and carnage had blocked several lanes.
I reached for the Clorox wipes and began methodically cleaning any surface the victims had touched in our van. Critter and Varmint were wide-eyed, having gotten to see, perhaps for the first time, what it is exactly My Captain does so well: Make order in the midst of chaos.
It took a while for us to get back on the road, but eventually My Captain eased us back into traffic, unruffled and unshakable, as he always is. We’d hardly begun our trip, and had just spent a good portion of an hour helping the folks at that accident. We still had a good 3 hours ahead of us, and traffic was still thick.
The van was quiet at first, as we all assimilated what had just happened. And then Critter, in his distinctive 12-year-old voice pitifully asked,
“Are we there yet?”
Seriously. We’d just witnessed and helped clean up a disaster, and even had close interaction with the victims in our own car, and that was all Critter could focus on.
In his defense, though, it IS the beach we’re talking about….