This I Believe

Pete - Carlisle, Pennsylvania
Entered on March 20, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: death

INCIDENT ON I – 283

It occurred some years ago, when traveling on the interstate to what was then, a very important engagement. The sight of the trooper’s flashing lights warning of the trouble ahead followed by the slowing of traffic to a complete stop.

This was serious. We were going to be late for the most important meeting ever. We began to strategize. Like the others caught in this long and snarled line of traffic, we worked our cell phones to access the situation. We needed to know the duration of this delay and to consider alternative routes in order to get us to where we needed to be.

Learning that the accident ahead involved a fatality portended more bad news, as the road would be closed for hours. It was then, amid the heightened levels of frustration and disappointment that the suggestion came to stop the phone calls and to perhaps say a prayer for the persons involved in this horrible tragedy.

This proposal brought silence to our group. I felt an initial sense of embarrassment followed by relief. The order of importance was reestablished by an alternative perspective. Not only was this out of our hands our problems were actually inconsequential.

From that day forward, I have given increasing attention to the many roadside markers that dot the routes that I routinely travel. The crosses and wreaths that have been placed by family members serve to memorialize the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives that have perished at these sites.

Fatal and horrific tragedies are often remembered only as long as the roadway is closed in order to reclaim the scene and to determine and assign fault. Following the cleanup, with traffic flow restored, the frustrated latecomers resume their travels having modified their plans and expectations.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider these repeated efforts that serve to erase history. A uniform marker, placed along the roadside at the site of a highway fatality could be incorporated as a part of the investigation, thereby concluding the work of the clean-up crew.

A simple blue reflector could serve this purpose, anonymously memorializing all who have died on our roadways. The silent tribute to them would also be a signal from them for us to slow down. Beginning drivers would now be faced with an additional reality when obtaining an operator’s license.

I wonder if we are able to deal with the harsh reality of the death that occurs daily on our interstates if we decide to remember rather than ignore.