The world froze as a small group of people huddled around the back of the car leaning on each other for support. You couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began and you got the feeling that each would not be able to support him/herself alone. Cars did not pass by on the seawall, lights on top of emergency vehicles flashed, and emergency workers stood a respectful distance back and showed no sign of having something more important to go to. It was a significant moment that altered the course of several lives. It was a moment frozen in time that seemed to be both way too short and to stretch into eternity.
Stories within stories.
It seems like all anyone was talking about around town this week was the terrible wreck on 23rd and seawall that resulted in the tragic death of a man from Michigan. The paper did an excellent job of describing the event, but there was an important subtext whose story should be told.
I was on my way into work a little after 7am and happened to be only a couple of blocks away when the call went out on the radio about the accident. When I got there, it took a moment to take it all in and figure out what had happened and how many people were involved. One man lay wounded on the seawall with his head cradled in another’s lap, another lay in the rocks on the beach not breathing. A smoking, battered truck was mangled and wedged between rocks on one side and climbed halfway up the seawall on the other. A man was trapped inside. It was terrible.
As other emergency responders arrived and we went to work sorting it out, we noticed two women and two children just down the beach. They didn’t realize it yet but they had each just lost a father, husband, or grandfather.
Some of the most real moments we face are when life comes into or leaves this world. There are those that are not afraid to face these moments and reach across barriers to touch another life when it is most needed and most difficult. Battalion Chief Gary Staudt of the Galveston Fire Department intuitively knew there was no greater priority and reached through the normal psychological barriers and offered support without reservation. David Mitchell, Sheila Savage, Marilyn Schwartz, and Ted Handly of the Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network brought a tent, food drinks, and support for what ended up being about 10 relatives that had come to Galveston together. Randy Burrows, the medical examiner, stretched protocol to allow the family to do the last rights before the body was taken to the morgue. There were others with the local police, fire, EMS, and outside agencies called in to help that reached out to the family as they performed their duties.
A terrible and beautiful moment frozen in time. A story within a story. A time to show what it is to be human.