Bob sat in the living room staring at the television. He and his wife had set the table, brought out the good china and were waiting for their guests to arrive. Their daughter, son-in-law, and their three kids were coming to spend the weekend. His wife kept glancing out the window looking for the blue Lexus SUV to pull in the driveway.
Bob flipped through the channels, stopping at the sight of a big rig flipped over on its side beside the highway bathed in the lights from emergency vehicles. The driver didn't survive. "Probably feel asleep at the wheel," Bob thought, "trying to make some extra money."
Bob couldn't know that the truck was found almost an hour after the accident. The driver could have been a woman, but more likely a man. He had been looking forward to time with his family this weekend, but they would never see him alive again. State troopers were standing around, directing traffic and speculating on the cause of the accident. Opinions were flowing freely. The news van had arrived early, their lead story for the night sprawled out before them like a dead dinosaur.
The investigators were trying to piece together what had happened from the tire tracks left on the pavement, but the only marks visible were from the truck. The results would be inconclusive.
The man's wife was still looking forward to her husband's arrival later that night. He had been on the road for the last 10 days. It would be good to have him home again. She looked over at their sleeping daughter. Tomorrow was her birthday. Her father had mentioned a surprise he was bring home to surprise her.
No one would know that he was perfectly awake and alert that night. How else could he have reacted to the vehicle crossing into his lane so unexpectedly? The driver had been talking on a cell phone with his brother arguing, as they always did, about politics. The kids were glued to the DVD screen and his wife was sleeping. He was rolling his eyes and flinging his head in an exaggerated manner when the car trespassed into the path of the passing truck. He swerved back, jostling the kids and waking his wife. He continued on his way, firing back at his wayward brother with yet another line of verbal attack. The damage was already done.
The truck driver had been faced with an impossible choice. He had seen the children watching the cartoon in the back seat of the vehicle. He made the decision to preserve their lives at all costs. He whipped the wheel of the rig to the left, taking the truck into the median. The soft mud swallowed the front tires, forcing the truck to jackknife. The back of the tractor was now leading the jackknifed rig, the truck, having lost all steering ability, continued across the opposing lanes of traffic which, thankfully were empty. Had the rig stopped there, he would have made his daughter's party, but it did not. Once at the steep shoulder, the trailer's tires caught and the load shifted, heaving the big on its side. The cab was crushed in a sickening groan of metal and fiberglass.
The news agency, the state troopers, the man's wife, children and neighbors and even the reunited family sitting down to the meal that was to happen later that night, would never know of his sacrifice, his heroism. They wouldn't know how he had instantly felt the connection in his heart between the children in the blue SUV and his own daughter. How, in that split second, he had imagined the pain of their parents as they buried their children—his own pain at the loss of his darling daughter. He had spun the wheel as fast as he could, missing the car and its noisy, boisterous inhabitants by inches. The occupants of the blue Lexus were so awash in their rolling microcosm, they hadn't noticed the near miss, hadn't heard the groan of stressed metal, hadn't watched the life of a gentle man coming to an end in their rear view mirrors.
Bob's daughter and family arrived safely, reporting that the trip had been uneventful. They sat down to dinner, smiles all around. The grandchildren were fussed over, the dishes washed, and Bob settled back in his chair, satisfied and grateful. At another home, not far away, a woman watched a police car and a highway patrol car turn into the long gravel driveway to the house. Her thought went first to her daughter, who she remembered, a second later, was asleep in her bed. "I wonder...” she thought, and then her mind, prophylactically, went blank.
This story, or some variation of it has happened time and again. Why? Because someone is distracted, tired or not paying attention to what they are doing. No one knew what had actually transpired that night...except you and me. Let's take a moment to honor all those people who do the right thing, make innumerable sacrifices, watch out for others, and help those in need. They achieve no fame, no awards, no articles in the local papers, and sometimes they even pay a price for their acts of heroism. The world won't take notice. It can’t. It doesn’t know… but we should.