SECONDS—ALL IT TAKES IS SECONDS TO DESTROY LIVES: THANK GOD IT WASN’T THEIR DAY OR MINE – OR ANYONE ELSE’S TO DIE
By Diana L. Chapman
I was headed home happily, ambling along Paseo del Mar coming from a glorious afternoon tea, my spirits high. Glimpses of the swirling, pearl-silver seas lulled my senses into a smooth calm near Point Fermin Park.
In a few seconds, all that blew up in my face.
Headed west, a red sports car pulled alongside me in the same direction – buffeting back and forth in the strong gusts and then uncontrollably swerved, nearly sideswiping my vehicle. The car then peeled off, weaved back and forth across the road ahead, and roared off at a furious speed -- leaving me in bits of floating dust.
I had no idea I knew all three women in the car – not just yet.
Irritated, I tried to spot the license plate but the car had gunned ahead; it was fruitless to try and catch up. To do so, the accelerator would have had to fly up to 60 mph. I couldn’t do it – not on Paseo del Mar where there were scores of walkers, joggers, dogs, bicyclist and kids playing still long before the sun closed down her day around 6 p.m. Wednesday.
All I could do was pray no one would get killed as the erratic driver sped off.
In a few more seconds rounding the bend that hedges Angel’s Gate Park, witnesses said the car hurled across the sidewalk, sliced through a neatly manicured city park lawn and landed in a grassland area across the street from the residences near Roxbury Street -- where just moments earlier a mother said her two two little boys had been playing.
The car eerily missed two towering palms by a few feet.
The smoking vehicle, when I saw it, sat upright on its side, bringing out crowds who raced to save those inside. Jumping out of my car, I looked at the passengers and the driver who were all alive, standing and bleeding.
I guess it wasn’t their day to die – and thank God, it wasn’t mine or anyone else’s. I was overcome with fury, however, when it dawned on me how reckless the driver was. As I approached, one of the passengers threw her arms around me as I yelled: “What were you guys thinking?” You almost hit me.”
“I’m so sooooooooorry, Diana,” the passenger cried, hugging me and crying with remorse, while she bled on her arms and down my shirt. She hugged me tightly and wouldn’t let go. “I’m so sorry. Are you OK? Are you OK?”
“I’m OK,” I said when she suddenly began to hyperventilate and folded in my arms, collapsing. Fortunately, a kind neighbor helped, holding her hand and talking to her soothingly; a lifeguard administered oxygen. Firefighters and police hadn’t arrived yet and then came the next irritant.
The driver hung over us, chiding the passenger that she “was fine,” and “there’s nothing wrong with you.”
“She’s not fine,” I shot back at the driver. “Just back off.”
The driver then basically told me to “f” off which made me broil. “You know you almost hit me,” I shouted. The kind man intervened asking the driver to leave. She sulked off and plunked down on the grass next to the other passenger. The two contended everything was fine and that the driver was not speeding or drunk.
What was even more horrific was that the young woman I was holding passed out and was carted off to the hospital. I still do not know the extent of her injuries, but I was shocked that the driver and friend didn’t seem to take much notice of their friend’s departure.
One complained: “My clothes are in that car.”
In some ways, I’m a tolerant person – as I’ve made so many mistakes in my own life – that it’s hard to make judgments on others in this regard. But there is not one time I can remember being such a fool to drive down any location peppered with people – especially as a woman in her late 20s or early 30s.
There appeared to be no regard for human or animal life.
Had I caused this wreck, I would have been horrified that I could have killed --- or maimed someone especially one of the tots who had been hopping around there a few minutes earlier – instead of trying to cover up the speed issue.
This morning, I was still steaming. This afternoon, I’m still angry as l write this with this near-miss etched in my head. I still wonder if the young woman who went to the hospital is alright. When the cops arrived twenty minutes later, they didn’t have time to talk to me so I handed them my card and added: “Call me if you need me.”
You’d think it might be a lesson. But on that day, I left with a bad, gut feeling that for this driver, it wasn’t going to leave a blip on her morality chart or anywhere else. And I can’t help but feel: just how sad is that?