I just helped pull an unconscious woman from a smoking car.

I was driving home in the rain from a casual networking lunch with an old friend and a new friend, cruising around 65 mph when I saw the car off to the side of the road, tucked just beyond a ditch among some young trees. Another car was pulled over, maybe 100 feet or more ahead. It was pulled over nice and neat, with no obvious alarm.

I parked between the two cars, pulling over and stopping as quickly as I could, and then I ran toward the smoke. Her face was pressed against her door window and although her eyes were open, she wasn’t looking at anything as she shook. I stepped into the watery ditch, opened the car door and said something like, “It’s okay,” or “I’ll help you,” and then I unbuckled her seat belt.

“Get her out of the car!” Two men had come up behind me and took over my useless attempt to move her body, which was still convulsing. Out of the car, I picked up one of her legs and we carried her to the pavement, where I covered her with my coat. It’s red with embroidery and lined with faux fur. She would either be embarrassed by it, or if she has an open mind and a good sense of humor, would laugh. I’ll never know.

With the men watching over her, I turned off the car’s ignition and wondered – if the car exploded, this could be my own end. I moved quickly. I took her cell phone back to the relative safety of the pavement, fumbling with turning it on and trying to guess whom I should call. Someone answered and asked all the questions that I couldn’t answer. Is she okay? What happened?

Police arrived, then an ambulance, and a family member. She was strapped to a board and I was kindly told that I could leave.

Back in my car, transitioning back to my life. Less than an hour before, my friends and I laughed about how, as writers (and philosophers), we look at every moment and consider how it affects other moments. What if I hadn’t waited for the truck to pass me before getting on the exit ramp? What moment made it possible for me to miss getting hit by this woman’s car, or possible for me to be there to try to help her?

Does it mean anything? It’s not about me, it’s about her. I don’t even know if she’s still alive. My husband asked if she had overdosed, but the thought had never occurred to me. I hope not. Now, with my feet still cold from driving home with wet socks and shoes, my belly still full from tofu, roasted vegetables, and thick coffee from my friend’s house, I have to believe that it does mean something, even to me, who had such a little part in that – what to call it? – that emergency, that happening?

I often try to leave you with some sort of advice or inspiration, but today I just had to write about this, about what happened. It affected me. I couldn’t wait to get home, where I would feel safe. But accidents and emergencies happen everywhere, I know.

What it does mean is that I appreciate the people (you?) who are wired to be there for emergencies. You thrive on helping others, and you do actually help. You’re strong enough to lift a body, you’re calm enough to ignore the sight of blood. I’m not. I’m other things, but I thank God for you.

Be safe, friends.

Cherie Dawn


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