Friday, February 8, 2008

The lonely roads of western Maine

Last night, as I drove from court in South Paris at 5:30 p.m., a time when people all over the country are fighting traffic to get home, it occurred to me that I had driven for over 20 minutes with my high beams on, having been alone on the road.

Two years ago on a stormy March afternoon, I was driving home from court in South Paris. On that day there was a pick up truck ahead and a car behind me and I remember being grateful for the company on the lonely road. As our little traveling caravan rounded a bend, I saw two little girls standing beside the road dressed in red. It struck me momentarily as incongruous with the snowy landscape until I saw the car upside down over the bank and realized the red that the girls were dressed in was blood.

All three of us pulled over and instinctively went into purposeful roles. The woman driving behind me had a cell phone and agreed to travel ahead until she could get reception for a 911 call. The man in the truck ahead of me immediately headed over the bank for the overturned car, realizing that if two little girls were by the road there must be an adult in the car. I approached the little girls and put them in my car, wrapped them in a quilt and tried to keep them warm, conscious and calm until help arrived.

It was a long time before help arrived. About two hours later my responsibility ended and I continued on my way, shaken from the experience and angry at the marginality of life in the mountains that elevated this accident to tragedy.

At the top of the next mountain, my phone rang with a call from oldest daughter S. Through heart-broken tears, I shared the story with her as she sat on a plane preparing to take off for a spring break trip to Italy. In the short time that we had to talk before her plane took off and my reception ended, she "got it". She understood the social problems that had made an accident on a snowy road a portrait of poverty, hopelessness, and struggle.

Last night she e-mailed me the story that she had written about it--started on the airplane two years ago and just finished. She is a wonderful writer, with a cultural anthropologist's ability to explain. Thank you, sweet child.


Anonymous said...


The Texican said...

Very nicely done. I'm glad we're kin (even in an election year).

Larry said...

Wow-that is some story!

Kathiesbirds said...

Beth, I so empathize with you! What a horrible thing to come upon, but thank God you did, for what would have happened to those small children if you hadn't! How well I know the problem with trying to get cell phone reception in the hills of Maine! So glad you were there. Stay safe on the roads. By the way, was your daughter's story ever published?