That’s what my daughter said were the first words out of my mouth when I woke up from a short nap in the car on Monday afternoon.
Rebecca and I were about halfway home to the Kansas City area, after visiting family 800 miles away in Ohio.
My daughter drove the middle stretch, between Indianapolis and St. Louis. I was resting before driving the final stretch.
I opened my eyes at the very moment Rebecca rolled into the scene. Shredded rubber, ripped metal, and the Good Lord knows what else littered I-70 westbound, some 50 miles east of St. Louis.
To the right of the road, on the crest of a hill perhaps 100 yards in front of us, a big-rig truck had slammed itself in a woods.
It plowed through a guardrail. It mowed down trees thicker than my gut.
There was someone in the cab. I saw him as we drove slowly by. Yet I saw no movement.
Two others had stopped and were standing by the side of the road. They were doing nothing.
I feared there was nothing to do.
“Should we stop and see if we can help?” I asked my daughter, who’s a nurse.
She didn’t answer.
She pulled the car over to the side of the road.
We got out and ran to the truck.
There were two men inside. Both shaken. One bleeding from the hand.
Antifreeze was still pouring from the radiator, in a steady stream. The smell would cling to our clothes.
Another trucker who had stopped said he smelled gasoline, too. So did I. I looked for leaks around the tanks, but couldn’t find any.
My daughter yelled up into the cab, “Can I help? I’m a nurse.”
The men were too stunned to know what to do.
The driver was a short, bald man who looked like he would make a wonderful character actor. Oddly enough, I thought that even as I stood there wondering if the truck would explode and kill us all.
As the driver turned to climb out, he said, “Oh, my back!” And he stopped.
The other man apparently had been sleeping in the bunk at the back of the cab. He was rummaging around, looking for a shoe.
I was thinking if he doesn’t get the dickens out of there pronto, someone else might find the shoe in the top of a tree. After the explosion.
We never got the two out of the cab. They were too confused to follow our instructions.
A highway patrol officer arrived within a few minutes. He said the ambulance would be here any moment.
He sent my daughter and me on our way and thanked us for stopping.
We heard the ambulance approaching as we walked to our car.
Thinking back on this, I realize I had not only put myself in harm’s way. I had put my daughter at risk.
Both of us had stood right beside fuel leaking from a crushed tractor-trailer rig. One drop of gasoline spilling out onto the searing engine, and we’re toast.
Still, it was a Good Samaritan thing to do.
But I’m wondering if what happened points to something else Jesus said:
“If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me” (Matthew 10:37, The Message).
I wonder if what Jesus had in mind was that his followers do the right thing even when it’s the risky thing.
I don’t know.
But I wonder.
Reading today’s blog triggered a question with a bit of background to it… I have a girlfriend who lived with abuse by a step father and a mother who denied it (even after she finally had the courage to speak up and chose her husband over her daughter) for many years because we had always heard so many sermons/read so many things about the commandment of Honoring your parents and it was the only commandment with an “or else clause”. It took years of living with the abuse for her to speak up and she still to this day feels guilty about doing so. Anyway, my question Where do you think people need to draw the line (or is there a line) at following the commandments to a “T”?
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks, Erin. I’ll add that question to the entries for the Question of the Week.