I wasn’t texting. I wasn’t speeding. I hadn’t been drinking. Otherwise I would’ve killed her. She ran out in front of me at 4 o’clock on a Monday afternoon. I didn’t see her until her long hair was flying up in front of my hood.
I slammed on the brakes and sat there in shock. The girl was on the ground holding her arm and crying.
Two people came running from the football field.
“What should I do?” I said.
“Turn off your ignition,” a woman said to me.
I did and sat there, my life flashing in front of me. How had this happened? More people were running over from the high school. Others were stopping traffic. The neighbors came out and stood on their lawns. I didn’t know any of these people. I was just in town for a long weekend.
I saw the father of the girl pointing at me and heading my way. Another man grabbed him and said something to him.
Oh, that’s why that car was pulled over to the side of the road with its brake lights on . . .
I sat there, watching all the commotion around me. A police car pulled up, and a female officer approached to ask me some questions.
“Did you see her step out in front of your truck? Did you apply the brakes? Where had you been? Where were you headed?”
I heard myself telling her that I’d just bought potting soil at the hardware store and was heading home to feed my dog. The police officer ran my license and then told me it wasn’t my fault but to hang tight. An ambulance pulled up. The high school principal came over and asked me how I was doing.
I told him not so well. I said I had three children of my own. He asked me what he could do to make me feel better.
“Tell your parents not to drop off their kids on the wrong side of the road!” I said.
No longer in shock, I started to cry.
A paramedic came over and told me that the girl was alert and there was no blood, two good signs.
“Don’t be alarmed, but the CHOMP helicopter is going to land soon to take her to the hospital. It’s just a precaution.”
Another woman came over and told me it wasn’t my fault. Then another person did, too. I didn’t know these people.
A neighbor from a house across from the football field asked me if I wanted a drink of water.
“Okay,” I said. “Thanks.”
“She should’ve crossed at the crosswalk,” she said.
At least three uniformed people assured me that it wasn’t my fault. The helicopter landed in the middle of the street right in front of me. After the girl was airlifted out of there, the crowd dispersed. The female officer came back and asked me if I was okay to drive.
“Yes,” I said.
“I’ve seen people in situations like this drive right into another car,” she said.
“I’ll be okay,” I said.
That was my cue to go home. It was only a few blocks. I fed my dog and sat there, wondering what if I’d been texting or speeding or drinking. My big Suburban would’ve run over that 100 pound girl. She would’ve been dead, and I would’ve been done.
There’s nothing like hitting a pedestrian to scare the bejeezus out of you. I couldn’t look at my twenty-year-old truck anymore with the big dent made by a teen-aged girl who was late for track practice. I got rid of it and bought a Prius. It gets way better gas mileage and doesn’t have a dent in the hood.
I’ll bet that girl now looks both ways before she steps into the road.
At least, I hope so.