Some aspects of my work as a firefighter can truly make me angry. I have seen the carelessness that led to deadly fires. I’ve witnessed the aftermath of suicides with families left smothered by tragedy. I’ve encountered vandalism and arson that resulted in innocent people pointlessly losing their lives. However, nothing gets under my skin as much as drunk driving, and my team and I have come across way too many cases to count.
The reason this gets to me as much as it does is perhaps because it’s so preventable. Or because a completely innocent and unsuspecting person can be killed doing nothing other than driving home or crossing the street in the path of an irresponsible idiot.
There have been anti-drinking and driving campaigns going on for decades, but people still go out partying without ever giving the ride home a second thought. So many of the victims and perpetrators are young men and women with their whole lives ahead of them. It’s such a waste.
The worst part about these accidents is that first moment when we arrive on the scene. There will be two wrecked cars. Glass is everywhere. There are puddles of blood and the pungent odour of gas, hot metal and burning rubber.
There will often be someone moaning from inside one of the cars, begging for help. And there will be someone else standing beside their own broken vehicle. That person will most often be the drunk driver – the one without a scratch. The one who will have to live with what they have done, but at least they will live.
Meanwhile, my partner and I will make a beeline toward the poor victims who never knew what hit them and whose lives will never be the same. That is if they live at all.
That’s the scenario that has played out on too many occasions. It’s what we encountered when we arrived late one night to the scene where one car had “T-boned” another.
The car driven by a young man had run a red light and slammed into the side of the other vehicle driven by a young woman who was unconscious, yet still breathing. Both appeared to be in their early twenties.
The male driver who had run the light was smoking a cigarette and standing beside his car. I could tell he was impaired by his slurred speech and inability to stand up straight, but I did not have time to think about him.
We rushed to the injured woman’s car and began the delicate, urgent task of extracting her. When the paramedics arrived they did their best to stabilize her, but sadly they could not. She had suffered too much physical trauma and died there on the scene.
With tight fists, I started heading toward the young man, but my partner grabbed me and pulled me back. He saw the anger in my eyes and was cool-headed enough to stop me from doing something I would later regret.
Later that night, I lay awake in bed at the fire hall, tossing and turning. I was unable to get the images out of my head of that poor young woman and the drunk driver who stood there smoking while she took her last breath.
I got up to get a glass of water in the kitchen. I felt such rage and frustration. It was 2:30 am and I knew that her family had likely been notified about their daughter’s tragic and pointless death. I heard their cries in my head and visualized them crumpling to the ground as they were given that dreadful news.
I have seen that deceased young woman’s face since then and not just in my mind’s eye. Her parents make sure her picture appears every year in the “in memoriam” section of the local newspaper. She was their only child and had been studying to be a lawyer. I cannot imagine what her mother and father must go through every single day.
There are countless injustices in the world. One includes people with limitless potential who die far before their time. Another involves those who irresponsibly and callously take their lives from them.
Madness is an excerpt from Firefight © 2014 By Rick Kurelo, CD. Firefight is available at FriesenPress.com
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