Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Steady Hand

This week while traveling on a Southern California freeway I witnessed a beautiful, heroic, and magical thing.

Like so many things in life, it started out as a bad thing and became a lesson in how wonderful people can be.

There is a section of the 805 freeway under construction. For months now we have seen the workers moving earth, putting in girders, and shifting equipment all within feet of us as we motor by at speeds around 70 mph when the road is open.

The other morning a storm was moving in. The rain had not yet reached the shore, but the wind had and an uneasy energy swept over the land.  I even remarked on it on Facebook before I got on the road.

A car with a family of five heading north on that section of the 805 was sideswiped by another car swerving to avoid a separate accident. It was about 6:30, the sun was just properly up, and the construction workers were only barely getting underway with their labors. The struck car became airborne and hung up on the concrete divide separating the road from the construction pit. Severely mangled, the car hung there precariously.

At great peril to themselves the construction workers raced to the car. They pulled a child out. They maneuvered one of their trucks with an extension under the car to prevent it from falling in to the pit. They worked to get the other people out of the car, and all this before the emergency teams had time to get there.

This caused quite the stir, as you can imagine, and traffic backed up in both directions. I came on it just as the ambulances and fire trucks were getting there. It was both horrifying and stunning: that truck reaching up to steady the car. I think everyone within sight was holding their breath. For a long time.

I sent up prayers of thanksgiving and deliverance for the people in the car, and for the workers supporting them. The people were all taken to hospital. Constabulary got the car up and over and on to a flatbed truck. Four of the five people lived. The grandmother passed later that day.

Life does this sometimes. Sometimes we get hit out of nowhere and get flipped in the air and seem to hang in the balance and we are not sure whether we will fall and die, or be rescued, or figure it out somehow. Certainly in these interesting times this happens a lot.

Yet help can come from the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected ways. You might be surprised who reaches out to steady you when you have a wobble. Or grabs you when you get flung in the air and are hanging upside down by only a prayer.

This accident happened as the workers were gathering, finishing their coffee, and starting up their equipment. It happened close enough for them to have the ability to see it happen and the path to rapidly get there. And help they didn’t hesitate. They didn’t worry about their construction deadlines. They abandoned their plans because of a new imperative.  Wow.

I don’t think we should worry. Help is all around. The stranger who passes you by on the street could be the hero who saves you. Or you for them.

I think we are in this together. I think we are learning that. I think that as the economy tears away our materialism and out of control consumption we are learning what is real.

I salute the construction workers every time I drive by them now. I call down radiant love to bless them, these unsung heroes of the roadway.