Almost everything I write is real life experiences, and this is a good example.
On November 20, 2021, I was coming home from performing at an event, and a car accident happened right in front of me. It looked really bad, so I jumped out to lend a hand. The story below will tell about what happened, but as I was leaving the scene I shot this short video. You can hear the officer speaking to me if you listen closely, an occurrence that’s noted in the story. What happened that night moved me so deeply that I decided to make it the last story in the book, closing out the reader and I’d time together with it’s telling. Watch The Full Video Here
Excerpt from Stories That Move, My Life in many Allegories.
Humans and Nothing More.
The white cloud looked like harmless steam until I breathed it in. Then the acrid vapor burned my lungs and throat. The smell of battery acid smoldering on a hot engine is something you never forget. Continuing past the vapor I saw a large white SUV. Its front end was smashed so severely that part of the headlight harness was touching the base of the shattered windshield. The driver was in place but was sitting so far back it looked like his seat was reclined. Moving closer I saw the dashboard of the vehicle had taken over the area where he would normally sit, pushing him back and pinning him in the process. The driver’s side window was blown out, so I leaned in and shouted, “Are you ok?”
As if nothing at all were out of the ordinary, he casually answered, “Yeah, just help me push this off’a me.”
A blood-curdling scream comes from the passenger seat, “Help my boyfriend!”
Looking over I saw his girlfriend was still in her seat, and through her passenger side window, I saw two people running up to help her. I turned my attention back to the driver. I realized there was no way I would be able to get him out. The steering wheel was nowhere to be seen, and the side door was crushed in over the top of him. I couldn’t even make out what half of the dashboard components used to be because they were so mangled. But he was remarkably stable all considered, breathing didn’t seem restricted, and the bloody gashes on his arm didn’t require immediate care. I got his attention and said, “Help is coming. I’ll be right back.”
He nodded distractedly, still trying to figure out how to push the dashboard off with the one unpinned arm he had available.
Turning to the right I ran to the second vehicle, a white minivan that looked like something out of a war movie. Its side door was either camouflaged against the wreckage or missing entirely, which left a wide opening for me to enter. Stepping in I looked for injured passengers, but quickly realized it was empty.
Exiting the van I looked back towards the SUV where the guy was pinned. From this angle, the car looked like a slain beast bleeding out every imaginable fluid in its death throes. Dark puddles fanned out steadily across the asphalt. The realization that a vehicle fire could kick off at any second hit me. And without any way to free the driver, it would be catastrophic.
Just then a dark luxury car pulled up and a short, slightly overweight man got out.
“Do you have a fire extinguisher?” I yelled to him.
“No,” he answered calmly as he walked towards the SUV.
“Ok, call 911 then,” I shouted as I jogged towards the SUV.
Stopping to look at me the man smiled and said, “I’m an off-duty police officer. You call 911!”
“Yes sir,” I answered, reaching for my phone. Knowing he was there took some of the pressure off. I could take charge in high-stakes scenarios when needed, but it wasn’t my job. He was trained for this, so I was happy to adopt a support role.
Almost immediately an operator picked up with a professional tone, “911, what’s your emergency?”
As I described the scene to her and answered questions, the off-duty officer went over and tried to pull open the driver-side door where the man was trapped, but it wouldn’t budge. Several other good Samaritans grabbed on and tried to help, but even working together it was too strong for them.
Moments later a man I hadn’t seen before ran into the area between the wrecked vehicles and started clearing people out. Then he turned and motioned to a brand-new white jeep sitting just outside the ring of chaos. The driver of the jeep pulled in hesitantly, and I’m completely baffled by what they’re doing until the man ran over and grabbed the winch cable attached to her front bumper. He pulled hard but it won’t move, so he shouted for the Jeep driver to release the cable. She looked down at the controls helplessly then yelled back, “I don’t know how. I’ve never used it before!” Running over and opening her door, he quickly found the controls and showed her how to unlock it. Then he and the off-duty officer drug the cable towards the SUV where they wrapped it around the driver’s door. But before they could activate the winch, an on-duty police officer arrived and stopped them. The man who’d had the idea of using the winch in the first place started to argue with her, but the roar of nearby fire trucks cut him off. Professional help was arriving, so it was better to let them handle it.
I ended the 911 call and looked around at the small army of good Samaritans who had descended upon the scene.
On the other side of the SUV, I saw the man’s girlfriend. She was still with the two people who’d originally come to her window. They were comforting her as best they could.
The lady officer was with the man trapped in the vehicle. I couldn’t hear what she was saying but based on his expression, it was the right thing because he was waiting calmly.
The man who’d waved over the lady in the jeep was helping get the winch wound up and stowed so she could get her vehicle out of the way of the incoming firetrucks.
And the off-duty police officer walked over to me and said, “You might want to move your vehicle because once the fire trucks are here, you’ll be boxed in.”
“Yes sir,” I answered, quickly moving to get my car out of the way.
As I started to get in the vehicle, the off-duty officer looked back at me once more and with a nod yelled, “Hey, keep it up!”
“You too,” I yelled back, grateful to have been acknowledged as a concerned citizen rather than getting yelled at or told I was in the way.
Jumping into the car I rolled out moments before a big firetruck pulled into the spot where I’d just been parked.
I don’t know how things turned out after I left. I never heard another thing about it. But that’s not the reason I wanted to share this story. The real reason is the handful of details I deliberately left out in the telling, the details that I believe make the story special.
Because I will never forget the night a black man and his black girlfriend had a terrible car accident. I won’t forget the two white women who ran up and comforted her. Or the female highway patrol officer who stayed with the trapped man. I won’t forget the portly Hispanic off-duty police officer who told me to call 911. Or the middle eastern man in a full turban, who helped the well-dressed Hispanic lady in the jeep unwind her winch. None of those things mattered in that moment. No one cared about differences in belief or culture or gender. For just a little while we were humans and nothing more.