Catalina called me today from the nurse's office to tell me that one of the brackets fell off her braces again. My daughter must have the slickest teeth in the world because this happens fairly often no matter how strong the cement is that they use. The orthodontist managed to squeeze her in at 3:15. This bummed me out a little bit because I planned on going to Costco between leaving the office and picking up Catalina after basketball practice. While I love having Catalina as my sidekick when shopping, I was really hoping to just get in and out, grabbing the essentials and using my fresh batch of coupons. Oh well.
I got Catalina from practice and she was excited to go shopping, mostly for the tasty samples they give out at Costco. Catalina told me how happy her coach was that she was able to make it to practice despite her orthodontal emergency. The rain started coming down harder as we drove past 7-11. I drove slowly through the giant puddle in front of the parking lot. Up ahead I saw three girls who looked like they could have been Catalina and her friends. They were splashing along down the street, laughing and one of them was spinning a fuschia umbrella. Catalina and I were trying to decide what to have for dinner. The light turned green. We started to inch forward. The three girls started to cross Union Boulevard, which is a pretty big street in our little town. The girl with the spinning fuschia umbrella darted ahead of the other two girls. She didn't see the red car turning. The drive didn't see her and her spinning umbrella darting. Even though I was looking right at them when it happened, I can't tell you what happened when they collided. The next thing I saw was the girl laying montionless on the pavement, her fuschia umbrella upside down in the gutter, and the two other girls standing over her in hysterics.
At first I thought they were goofing around. That the girl slid on the wet pavement and her friends were playfully teasing her. As we pulled up beside them, it was clear that this was not a joke. Catalina recognized the girls as students from her school. They're eighth graders so Catalina only knew them by sight but it's a small school in a small town so they were easy to recognize. I got out of the car and went to the girl on the ground. I told the two friends no to tr and mover her. By then another woman had already stopped and parked her car in such a way that it blocked oncoming traffic. A man also stopped and was already on the phone to 911. We both looked down at the girl and asked her if she was okay. She did not respond. Her brown eyes were half open and rolling around in their sockets. Her jaw was slack. "What's your name, honey?" I asked her. No response. "What's your name?" One of her friends answered, "Giselle," as she trembled and cried. The other girl was on the phone to Giselle's mother. "Giselle, can you hear me?" Her lips quivered but no sound came out. Her eyes were rolling further back in her head. An oil delivery man ran out with a moving blanket and covered Giselle with it. An older gentleman came and held his umbrella over her head. And the driver of the red car was standing beside it, watching us from a distance.
Catalina stood near Giselle's friends. She kept looking back and forth between the driver and Gisellle. "I'm gonna make sure he doesn't try to get away before the cops get here," she said to me, pointing at the driver. I know she meant it. I know that if she saw that man attempt to get into his car and flee the scene, Catalina would run after him and stop him in any way she could. You have no idea how much I was hoping he would stay put.
The police arrived first. Giselle was still unresponsive. The police had some sort of small kit to use on her so we all stepped away so they could do what they needed to do...but none of us left. I joined Catalina near Giselle's friends. They were still distraught but seemed comforted by the police's arrival. I asked if they got in touch with Giselle's mother. They said they had and that she was on her way. She lives right nearby. The girls cried and hugged each other and blamed themselves for what happened to their friend.
When the ambulance arrived, Catalina and I got back into our car to get out of the rain. I was trying to hold back tears and decided to take out my Blackberry and ask for prayers for Giselle from my Facebook community. Catalina told me how scared she was by the whole thing and told her Facebook community about it as well. She thought the same thing I had at first; that the girls were goofing around. "It happened so fast." Yes it did.
It was a little while until the paramedics loaded Giselle into the ambulance. Just as they shut the doors, a woman who must have been Giselle's mother arrived. She was running as fast as she could on the wet pavement. She had a look of restrained panic in her demeanor. I could see her face contorted and tears streaming from her eyes. She slipped slightly as she reached the rear of the ambulance and she beat on the door with a clenched fist until it slung slowly open. She jumped inside and the door shut quickly behind her.
The police had moved on to talk to the driver. They were speaking casually. The officer held the sideview mirror that came off in the accident in his hand as he spoke. And that's what it appears it was. An accident.
Catalina and I went to Costco as planned. We shopped and ate the free samples. We laughed together as we normally do. But from time to time, we mentioned Giselle and everything that happened. Catalina said that everytime she shut her eyes, she saw Giselle laying there in the street. She had never seen an accident and its consequences unfold before her eyes. It was truly frightening.
As I sit here writing the account of what happened today, it all seems so surreal. If I did not feel this lump in my throat, I would think that this was all just a bad dream. But it isn't. It's real. Giselle and her friends could so easily have been Catalina and her friends. That mother at her baby's beside could have so easily been me. It could be any of us or our children. Next time I get a call from the nurse's office, I will try not to get bummed that my plans have to change. I will take it as a gift that I get to spend some time that I didn't expect to with my baby. I will hug her a little tighter now and be even more nervous when she is out with friends.
And I will pray for Giselle, that she pulls through without any permanent injury. And I will pray for Giselle's family, that they see their little return to her normal self quickly. And I will pray for her friends, that they don't feel guilty for something that was beyond their control.