I heard the crash. It sounded as though something heavy had been dropped, like a garage door or a boulder. A few minutes later, there was a second noise. This time, it was a siren. I sat up in the couch I had been sitting on, and saw flashing red lights, breaking the peace of the night. But I didn’t get up and go look outside. I told myself that if an ambulance was there, it wasn’t as though I could do anything to help. The ambulance workers would do the best they could whatever the situation, and that is far better than anything I could do. Besides, chances were someone had just broken a finger and got a little overanxious, or some kid’s overprotective mother was worried about a low fever.
A policeman came to the door the next morning. My Dad answered, and the policeman grimly told him the news: a car accident had occurred last night a block from our house, and two high school students were killed. They had been driving 80 miles per hour before smashing into a tree. And the policeman asked my Dad if he had heard anything or perhaps saw the crash. He hadn’t. I sat still in a chair by the computer.
The policeman left, and I found my voice. “I heard it,” I said. My Dad looked at me confused, as though unsure why I hadn’t told the policeman my story. “It’s not like I know anything they don’t already know,” I continued, justifying my action.
Why didn’t I speak out? The truth was; I felt guilty. Like I should have gone outside when I heard the crash. I wasn’t with those students, when they were driving in their car. But I was only a few yards away from where they crashed. I could have gone outside a minute before and prevented it somehow. I could have waved them down, or called the police before the accident even occurred.
I wasn’t at fault for not going out. Not really. And of course I wasn’t responsible for the crash. Realistically, I could never have known what was going to happen. But I still felt guilty.
I believe that we have to let the guilt and the grief pass. Losing a friend, a loved one, or a schoolmate is always going to be hard. Throughout our lives, we will have to deal with issues like this. We have to know how to deal with them in a way that we can survive and thrive.
I didn’t know the students who died in that crash. I didn’t know they were out that night, or that they were driving home. I didn’t know they were going to crash, and I wouldn’t have been able to help them even if I had gone outside when I heard the noise. Receding into grief doesn’t help anyone. In the memories of those we lose, we have to continue to hope and laugh and live.
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