Thursday, December 26, 2013

Right Before Christmas

Last Friday, I was hyping the idea of Santa Claus and grocery shopping with Sabine and Zadie. We were smiling at candy canes, bows and red-and-green everything. Christmas was perfectly exciting because it hadn't happened yet. We were almost finished and standing in the parking lot at the trunk of our car, loading the groceries when I heard a soft crying and a scraping-the-pavement sound behind me. I turned around and saw an old woman sandwiched between the asphalt and the rear bumper of a mid-size car. The vehicle was reversing out of its parking spot and the woman was being pushed by the back tires as the car moved along, scraping the entire left side of her 76-year-old body along the craggy surface as if she were an empty fast-food bag.

I was motionless but screamed what felt like a hollow yelp for the driver to stop. He did. I told Sabine and Zadie not to move and ran to the woman. I held her hand and told her that I knew she was scared but that I thought she was going to be okay. I called 911. She asked me not to let go of her hand and not to leave her. I was ten feet away from my four year old and my 19 month old, who was siting in the basket. I kept telling them not to move, while smiling at the woman and trying my hardest to keep calm so she wouldn't crack. I'd just watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy and knew she should be kept as still as possible. The 911 operator asked me her name, her age, if she was pinned. I was trying to get all of the answers right while making sure my child-filled basket didn't move and that my four-year-old's feet stay planted to the same spot.

Another woman had come over and asked the old woman if she could call anyone for her. She asked her to dial her friend Emily but to please not call any of her family because she didn't want to worry them. I looked back to the bumper of my own car and saw Sabine standing there with her kid-size blanket and holding it out for me. She said it was to cover the lady so she wasn't cold.

The woman on the phone in the gold Honda parked next to me had climbed out of her car and was standing next to my children. She started to lift Zadie and said, "I'm going to put your kids in the car." I yelled at her not to touch them. I knew if they couldn't see me, they wouldn't be okay after seeing what they just saw.

An ambulance and two police cars finally arrived. They asked if I was the old woman's family member. I said, no. They told me I had to let her go. I felt guilty and relieved. I went to Sabine and Zadie and grabbed a box of kitchen trash bags I'd just bought to put in front of the grocery cart wheel. The guy driving the car with the lady underneath it, asked me what happened. I told him I heard crying and turned around and saw his car pushing her body along the pavement. He said he thought it was a big cup or trash behind his wheel. Then he asked me where her cart was. He said he thought he'd bumped something and assumed it was a shopping basket. I told him, again, that was her body. He started pacing, lit a cigarette and called his boss to tell him he would be late coming back to the office. Sabine kept asking me if the lady was going to be okay. Zadie was quiet and expressionless. A policeman requested my I.D. and asked me exactly what happened.

After I told him what I saw and after the ambulance drove away, I strapped the girls into their car seats and drove away, my hands shaking on the steering wheel.

I've always been terrified when walking through parking lots with my daughters. I hold their hands, but think it's too easy for someone not to see us as they're reversing out of a spot. I was right, except that it was that poor old woman and not one of us. I can't stop picturing her body being dragged along black asphalt by a car. Sabine woke up from her nap that afternoon and told me she dreamed about the lady. She drew a picture of her underneath a car on the back of her place mat when we went out to dinner that night. And the next morning, the first thing she asked when she woke up was if I thought the lady was okay. So I guess she can't stop thinking about her either.

I wish we could close our eyes and see black instead of that woman's rag doll-like body. I am buckets of grateful that I heard her cry and could scream loud enough to stop that car from moving another inch. And I am painfully relieved that each person in my little family--however sick, ungrateful, grumpy and cold they are--is alive, whole and unhurt on this snowy Baltimore day after Christmas.

via Observando


Kelli Mook said...

ohhhhh laura ...what a sad but touching read. life saver!

Flora said...

Do you think you'll find out more about her condition. The driver sounds so careless.

Miss A said...

Oh my God. Terrifying. I hope she'll come out alright. And yes. The driver sounds very careless. Sorry your daughters had to witness it.

Laura Mauk said...

I'm just dying to know her condition. But I'm also scared to know. She was basically being run over by that car. She was horizontal, lying on the ground and being pushed. I just hope the wheels didn't roll over her body at all. She is 76. An accident like that could seriously compromise her quality of life at that age. I hate thinking about it.


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