Making A Split Decision: Stop and Help

School vacation week is over and like the kids, I look back and think “how is it already over?”. I joke with adults that I am not ‘normal’, as I love hanging out with my kids and I relish the lazier days of vacation just as much as they do.

As I look back on the week and get ready for the school and work week ahead, a random event made the biggest impression on me this past week. It got me thinking about what if it had not been vacation week…would I have done the same thing?

Thursday was an ‘off’ day for our family – no college visits, no girls shopping sprees, no definite plans. A day we were going to play it by ear. I told my kids they could sleep as long as they wanted and I would go to the gym and then we’d plan the day. I went to the gym and then drove to Medford for my allergy shot. I caught up on some work emails while at the allergy office and then headed home, calling my daughter to let her know I was on my way.

Heading north on 93, a truck crossing lanes of traffic up ahead caught my eye and I quickly realized a nasty accident was happening just ahead of me. Car parts were flying, cars were crashing into each other and four lanes of steady traffic were braking and swerving. I was in the far left lane, and cautiously slowed as most vehicles made the quick decision to move right, avoid the wreckage and keep going. I did not follow.

My instinct told me to stop. I stayed in the left lane and stopped my car – immediately putting on my hazard lights. A vehicle ahead of me had been hit hard on the passenger side and the driver, a dad, was quickly pulling young kids out of the back seat and getting them on the other side of the guard rail to be safer. Within seconds, three young girls were standing on the side of 93 North in 45 mph winds. I called 911 to report the accident and then ran toward the girls. I offered to take the girls with me and have them in my car where they would be safe and warm. The Mom and Dad, clearly shaken, agreed and the 3 young girls ran with me back to my car to be safe and warm.

I talked to the girls and tried to calm them down. The youngest, only 6 years old, was shaking and so scared. I had a blanket in the car from Marathon Monday and her cousin wrapped her up so she could get warm. I wished I had something to offer them, but I only had gum, the end of my morning Dunkin Donuts coffee and the radio. Given I listen to The Highway, the fabulous country music station on Sirius Radio, I changed the radio to Kiss 108 to better appeal to their musical interests! I talked to them with my main focus on keeping them calm and reassuring them everything would be ok. Two of the girls were sisters and the other a cousin, all headed for a vacation.

State Police officers, fire trucks, tow trucks, and many EMTs quickly arrived to assess the situation and to focus on getting people safely out of vehicles and en route for hospital care. Others focused on documenting the accident and identifying who was in which vehicles. 93 north was full of emergency vehicles, tow trucks and debris.

The family rental was packed with luggage and food and treats for the beach vacation. We moved luggage to my vehicle as I offered to get them anywhere they needed to go. By this point, the Mom joined me in my vehicle along with the girls so she too could be warm as well as sit down as she had hit her head during the crash.

All the responders were incredible – a huge tribute to their professionalism but more importantly to how they all spoke kindly and compassionately with the three girls. I was so impressed as they checked the youngest girl’s seatbelt ‘burn’ on her little neck and how they explained the reasoning for ending up putting the mom in a neck brace and strapping her to a back board. All scary stuff for young eyes to witness but the EMTs and state police explained how they wanted to keep the family together and suggested that all 5 be transported via ambulance to be checked out. The two older girls had been incredibly brave until they heard that news that they too would be traveling via ambulance and no longer staying in my car with me. They too then began to shake and cry at the thought of going into an ambulance. I focused on soothing them while finalizing the plans with their grandfather to meet him at a local restaurant parking lot to get him the family’s luggage. I had nothing to offer them except my pack of gum which I gave to the oldest as a small item for them to have, chew on and enjoy. The family’s day had taken a strange turn. There would be no beach vacation.

Fortunately, the girls were fine and the parents’ injuries were not serious. They were lucky. I am glad I was there to help them and to offer them a place to be out of the wind and away from the wreckage. I am glad in that instant I did not veer right and keep going. I would have wanted someone to stop and help my family. The mom commented while sitting in my car that I probably had a million things I needed to be doing. I smiled and explained that this was a quiet vacation day for me and my kids. I am grateful it was and hope that even if I did have a busy, jam-packed workday, that I would make the same split second decision and stop to help.

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