I slowly drove past a row of parked cars, on the lookout for a parking spot near where D goes to pre-school. The parking slots were unusually full for a weekday and for that time of day. I'd never had to drive so far up the street to find an empty slot before. Finally, after driving past about fifteen cars, I found an empty space.
I turned the steering wheel to the right, slowed down, pulled the car in and put my foot on the brake to stop the car. I have no idea what happened next, but my car jumped the curb, zoomed past a tree and over the grass and plants and crashed into the outside wall of a house. In an instant, the front of my car was crushed, the windows and the lower part of the wall of a house had buckled in. I still get shivers thinking about this and I still don't know how I got so lucky, but I was not hurt and the house I had crashed into was empty at that time.
I clambered out of the car and called emergency. A whole bunch of fire trucks came and repaired the house the best they could. One of the officers stayed with me the whole time, explaining to me what they were doing, making sure I was OK. One of the other firemen gingerly backed my car out on to the street. A few of the people who lived close by stood with me, got me to sit down and got me water and one of them even drove her car behind mine all the way to my house to make sure I got home OK. In the final analysis, no one was hurt, everything that was damaged could be put back together to its earlier state or even better.
A few weeks ago, a family we know through the kids' after-school activities was not so lucky. The children survived the accident, but the parents did not. The randomness, the suddenness and the finality of what had happened and the tragedy that had visited the lives of such young children (two of whom are the same ages as my own) left me breathless. When we saw one of the children a few days ago, I thought I detected her gaze lingering on a man who walked past her with his arm wrapped around his own little girl.
Children suffer all over the world. When I hear or read stories about such suffering, it leaves me angry and searching for ways to try to help. But with this incident, there was no anger, just sadness and an inability to understand and a deep sense of inadequacy at not being able to help or make things better in any way at all.
It is a cliche to say this, but the days and weeks have rolled on. We've seen at least one of the girls going about her activities (although haven't seen her the last few days). But every so often it gives me pause. We take so many things for granted and we behave as if life as we know it will continue long into the future. We plan for the changes we anticipate.
And really, that is the only way to live. No one can go on living expecting and preparing for dreadful things to happen every day.