Thursday, February 02, 2006

In The Blink Of An Eye

Two events happened this week which led me to think about how one's life can change forever in a blink of an eye.


I received a call from a woman reporting threats and harassment with the suspect not on scene with her. It was more complicated than that, so I somehow convinced myself that it was something for which an officer needed to respond in person.

She asked how long it would take because she wanted to take a quick shower. I told her that it wouldn’t likely take all that long but she’d probably have time for that shower.

I entered the call.

The dispatcher read the call and said “hey, why can’t report takers take this over the phone?”

I think I said something like “Duh! I’ll call her back and transfer her to the report takers.”

I called her back about two minutes from the time we had hung up. The phone rang for longer than I expected and she answered the phone out of breath.

I said “Hi, is this Mrs Jones?”

She responded, “Yes, I just fell and cut myself really bad.”

I said “Do you need an ambulance?”

“Yes, yes I think I do.”

“Stay on the line, I’ll transfer you.”

Then I entered another call for the same address for this woman who had slipped when leaping from the tub to answer my phone call and fell onto a porcelain waste basket and opened up a large and deep gash on her wrist.

Her conversation with the paramedic dispatcher was difficult for me to listen to. She said several times "Am I going to die? Is this going to kill me?"

Although the laceration was quite bad, she did not die or even lose consciousness.

I was pretty upset. My supervisor and coworkers were very supportive, in fact they told me that it was a freak thing and I needed to just get over it.

I didn’t make her answer the phone. I did not suggest in any way that she not follow all appropriate safety measures when leaving a bathtub. I never suggested she buy a breakable and extremely sharp-when-broken bathroom accessory. She caused this accident herself yet I feel badly about the whole circumstances surrounding the injury.

One moment in time changed everything. She told the paramedic dispatcher "I should have just let the phone ring." I have an idea what this woman does for a living and this is going to impair that skill for a least a little while.

For dog's sake, she should have bought a Rubbermaid garbage can. So many little things. I guess of all the people who could have been calling, I was the one who could get her the help she needed the quickest. There's little comfort in that.


At 8 o'clock in the morning a very stupid 21 year old guy stole a very identifiable one ton pickup truck which had been left idling with the keys in it outside a local business. It was reported immediately and therefore cops from two shifts were in a position to be looking. When the first officers spotted him, the very stupid guy rammed four civilian cars and two police cars. Officers fired shots at the vehicle but did not hit it.

The very stupid guy, now not only a felony suspect but a seriously dangerous felony suspect drove across a hard median and through the opposite lanes of traffic in order to turn onto another major road. Several blocks later he crested a hill at approximately 80 miles per hour, ran a red light, and t-boned a sedan crossing the road.

This is the very car

The driver of the sedan, a 35 year old father of three children and husband of a loving wife, was killed instantly.

In the blink of an eye.

This guy was just responding to a green light, probably headed for work. It's doubtful he had any idea what had happened. One minute he was driving, the next he was gone, his wife a widow and his children fatherless.

Oh yeah, the very stupid now murderer bailed and ran on foot. Before very long a police K9 unit found him in a nearby neighborhood.


I wonder what to make of both of these things. I don't hold any religious beliefs but I can see where it would certainly help to think that the serious senseless bodily injury of one and the senseless death of another were all part of a necessary cosmic plan.

Instead I think of chance and happenstance and luck and serendipity and I want to tell everyone I know how much they individually mean to me. I want to hug my wife and never let her go. I want to tell all of you to do the same things: never let your friends or loved ones leave without telling them how you feel. I don't want the last words I say to any of you to be "don't forget the fat free cottage cheese."

I want to close my eyes to the world so I don't have to see, to know.

Instead I stay up too late and write.



Closed eyes

Porcelain Waste Basket
Car Crash and the full news story


John Cowart said...

I'm glad you stayed up late to write.

Still Searching... said...

Scary how whole lives can change so quickly.

I don't think it was your fault at all. (in your first story).

In your second...this is one of the things that anger me completely. The senselessness of it all. A man, innocently minding his own business loses his life, and his family's lives are affected forever. All because of someone taking a joyride (or whatever he was doing).

So very sad.

AM said...

Great post. You have an incredible job that not many people could do - yet in every town, every city, there ARE people like you. It blows my mind because it's not something I think I could handle. And look at all these people, you, who do!

That lady was lucky it was you on the phone. I have NOT needed to make a call like that, thank god, knock on wood, etc. But I'm thankful that there are Erics all over the place who take the emotional hit to make sure chumps like me have help. So, at the risk of being a complete cheeseball, thanks. I'd feel safe if I needed to call you.

Lindsey said...

I was watching all the news stories about the driver and the just made me cringe that he had such little regard for anyone else, that he hurt so many people.

Deb said...

Good advice you have there, Eric. You shouldn't feel bad about the woman in the first story - she made her own decisions. And the 2nd story is incredibly sad - those are the kinds of stories that make me want to go hug my husband and son.

Jas said...

Brother E,

Don't feel bad about the wastebasket laceration, remember, we all at times must let the battery fall.

Perhaps also it is with a bit of tension that you watched the accident occur as if it were part of you, since we lived merely blocks away as kids. I knew exactly where the accident was, just from the description of the streets in the ADN article.

Lives can change in an instant. It takes that same instant to tell our loved ones how we feel.

None of us say it enough, and often we regret it all too late.

I think the guilty person who killed the father should have to explain to the kids, and the mother/wife, to their faces why he did what he did. Make him confront the victims of the situation he caused. Eye to eye.

Jail isn't tough enough, the punishment of jail or prison only tends to trap the physical body, where his spirit and soul need to be rattled, shaken, and changed, right down to the core.

There can only be healing and peace in Justice.
(yes, Capital J)

Brother J

The Catapillar said...

Very thought prevoking post. I know I feel the same and try to tell my loved ones when ever I get the chance how much they mean to me. It breaks my heart to hear stories of people with so little regard for they effects of their actions.

Dont feel bad about the woman. It was divine that you were the one who called because you were able to help her instantly. If it had been someone else she may not have been as lucky.

Traffic Goddess said...

I swear that I am victim to the shit magnet, too...that incident where the phone call resulted in that woman cutting herself sounds like something that would happen to me.
Like your blog!

Anonymous said...

My husband was in Anchorage the day this accident happened. He was helping train some of the K-9 guy in the evenings with NVG's.

Sad story to say the least.

The first story was probably an accident waiting to happen - I mean who calls in a report but has to shower before the officer comes over - hmm


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