We got word in Dispatch that the driver of the passenger vehicle was gone the instant of the head-on collision. Which was, at once, sobering and heartbreaking. Given his name, we made contact with his mother, to let her know she needed to meet with deputies about her son being involved in a car accident. A child, really, just 20 years old, who had so proudly driven off the lot with the car he bought all on his own, just months before. A child whose birthday was just a few days away, a milestone year he would never celebrate.
As we were ending what would have been an otherwise uneventful shift, it was eerily quiet (a dreaded word in the world of first response) but for a moment. Not a word spoken among us, or across the airwaves, as we handed off the tragic aftermath and cleanup to the incoming shifts. How do you walk away from something so life-altering for so many, and go on about your day as you stroll through the doors into the daylight? How do you leave that at work? And that is where our littlest comes in…
In case you don’t recall, she was witness to all of the commotion, and took it all in, calmly and nearly wordlessly, without taking any of it on. I’ve always thought of her like she was a sponge, because she loves soaking in and learning new things. She also picks up on emotional and social cues like no one I’ve ever met. Empathetic without letting anything steal her joy or energy. She tightened her grip on my hand once that door opened, and smiled huge up at me as we walked side by side to the running car. Thank goodness for Daddy, he snuck the keys out of my purse to make sure our car was warm and ready. How did she know I needed that big sweet grin? She watched, she saw me, she always sees me, and I’m so thankful for that! For her! You see I had commented to a few of the incoming dispatchers that I felt a bit useless not being able to do much to help. I couldn’t answer 911 lines yet, I couldn’t key up on the radio yet, I was a helpless bystander to all that was going on around me, standing at my CAD watching and listening to the call explode on my screen and in my headset. But then once our little angel and I gathered our things to walk out into the cold wintry morning, and she squeezed my hand, and smiled at me so brightly, a thought suddenly occurred to me. I wasn’t helpless, nor was I useless, I was right where I was meant to be, next to that precious girl, keeping her calm and reassured, answering her quiet questions as best I could about what was going on both around us, and at the scene that her Daddy just rushed off to.
As we got all settled and buckled up I turned to her to ask if she just wanted to take her time getting to school this morning. “Of course”, she agreed enthusiastrically! We drove slowly, carefully, down winding backroads, taking our time looking at the new calves in the fields near our old house, watching the wisps of fog lift over the ponds and streams that led to the river. #ToBeCont