Last night Marian and I were going to a meeting of the St. Louis Paper Arts Guild. Neither of us had been to a meeting in months and were looking forward to catching up with old friends. We met at our usual spot so we could ride together in my car.
We had been traveling several miles eastbound on the highway when I saw smoke up ahead. I thought, wow, that is weird and then suddenly, in an instant, I saw a tractor trailer veer out of control and jackknife across 2 lanes of traffic (this all happening about 10 car lengths ahead of us). The truck actually went into and over the center concrete median, coming to rest on top of the median with parts of the vehicle on both sides of the highway.
We didn't know it at the time, but this was a fatal accident; one person was killed and many others seriously injured. The truck had fractured the concrete median and sent a hunk of it airborne through the windshield of an oncoming vehicle. Another car burst into flames. It was a horrible scene and the highway was blocked in both directions by strewn cars, debris and emergency vehicles.
A strange camaraderie developed among the occupants of the waiting vehicles. It was a lovely evening so many were out of their cars. The people were patient and generally somber with the occasional nervous laughter sprinkled throughout the crowd. Oddly, there were a ton of onlookers who parked on the outer roads (both sides) simply to watch. It seemed so intrusive to me and I can't imagine myself ever doing that.
Authorities finally allowed us to make U-turns, drive the wrong way on the highway and exit going up the down ramp. They didn't officially re-open Highway 40 in either direction for 4 hours.
Here is the paper's report of the accident.
The entire incident was a reminder of how precious life is. I am grateful to have not been involved except as a reluctant spectator, to have been simply inconvenienced in a very minor way, such an insignificant blip on the radar of my life. I think of all the other people and how their world was shaken by this event and I am saddened. I am grateful to Marian for being with me; she was the picture of calm; it seemed she brought that out in me as well. We shared an apple, talked about life and waited. Later, we headed for a restaurant and had some wine.