Today is March 14, 2006, the seventh anniversary of the day that the world stood still. The day the van very nearly killed you. The day that I stared into the edge of hell for just an instant.
It was an ordinary enough day in an extraordinary way. I’d spent the majority of that week in a major stew over the fact that Dad was on a tour of Israel with his parents while I was home dealing with three kids’ needs and schedules. That he’d made the decision to go on this tour without even talking to me about it. That his parents had the nerve to even ask him to go knowing that it left me holding the bag. That he was willingly putting himself in a country that was known for security and violence all at once.
All of those resentments were on my mind that morning. It was midway through his two-week trip and we’d gone to church that morning like always. Everyone wanted to know how Dad was enjoying his trip which just felt like people were grinding insult into injury.
We came home, Sticks got ready to go to a birthday party and The Eldest was plotting his escape. After being busted earlier in the week for drinking, he was not on my happy list. You wanted to go to your friend’s house two doors down and across the little “street” that separates the townhomes and lets us get into our garages. You, Sticks and the other kids in the neighborhood routinely played in them because the old folks didn’t want you guys on the manicured lawns.
Still, I walked you there. Remember? Just because I wanted to be sure she was home, that she could play, and that you wouldn’t be wandering around without a purpose. You hated that — you wanted to be independent like Sticks and go wherever you wanted. She was home and wanting to play. I went home and stewed for awhile about what to do for diversion.
I was on the phone when you came in and grabbed your Barbie stuff, remember? You came in and went out. I thought you were with M, because she was always meticulous about walking you across the street. I hung up and went about my business.
Then I heard the screams. Loud, insistent screams. A breathless knock on the door. M, whitefaced and pale telling me to come, please come, you’d been hit by a van.
Just writing about it now brings back all of the adrenaline. All of the guilt. All of the anger. Remembering running out to the street to see a very large white van backing up and your small little form on the ground, a pool of blood gathering around your head. In that moment I knew I didn’t deserve you, had never deserved you, and this was my punishment for daring to have you.
I was so afraid to come near. I was sure you were dead. There was an old man getting out of the van, coming to me, telling me he was sorry, he didn’t see her, he didn’t know she was in the crosswalk.
I shook him off, not wanting to ease his pain when I couldn’t breathe with my own.
M’s dad had ice. I remember wondering why he had ice when you were dead. Dead people didn’t need ice. They needed to be alive, alive, alive.
Neighbors gathered. Someone called 911. And then, like the finest music I’ve ever heard, you began to scream for me. “MommymommymommymommyMOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
As long as I live I will never ever forget the relief, the sense of mercy and deliverance that your scream brought to me. Not dead, alive. Alive, alive, hurt, but ALIVE. NOT DEAD. Ambulance comes, you are bleeding and rushed to the emergency room. Chaplain meets me at the door offering prayer. I decline, opting to never leave your side again for even an instant because my guilt at letting you cross that little alleystreet on your own is crushing me already.
Hours later after the CAT Scan and the stitches, the ER doctor came to me with the news that aside from some very deep bruises and 15 stitches in your forehead, you are miraculously fine. He tells me that the marks on your body indicate that the van’s tires went entirely over you. How can that be? I ask him with incredulity, because that was a big van and if they went over you they’d have crushed you. Shaking his head, he says that his only explanation is that there was a miracle that day. He agrees that you should have been crushed and shows me the bruising from the tire tread on your leg and hip. He cannot give me further explanation. He can only tell me that miracles do happen and this was one.
Angels watch over you then and today. There is a purpose for this, I know. I do not know what it is yet and neither do you, but I believe with all of my heart that you were spared that day because there is work for you here on this planet — important work.
You came home with me that night. We slept in the same bed until Daddy returned a week later. I cancelled all the work and stayed home with you. Sticks was nice, even. The Eldest was traumatized by the whole thing but we never knew how much till much, much later.
When Dad came home and saw you and heard the story, he cried. I cried. We cried with gratitude tinged with just a sprinkle of collective guilt, but mostly just pure gratitude.
The driver of the van came to our door that week and explained.
(Is there an explanation? Not really)
He was canvassing our complex for townhomes for sale. March is the best time to list, after all. He wasn’t looking at the street; he was looking up the street. Going slowly, very slowly, he just inched over you and didn’t realize it until he heard M’s screams.
M and her family sold their house and moved that summer. They couldn’t bear to live here after that — too afraid of other drivers.
You cringe whenever I yell at irresponsible idiots who think our street is a speedway until I remind you that I have no intention of seeing any other children hurt or killed in here. Then you agree with me.
I love you, Dancergirl. I am grateful every day that God worked that miracle. Maybe He knew that I wouldn’t survive such a loss. But we are not the only family to suffer, and this week, one family is mourning the loss of their daughter, a child the same age as you were when you were hit.
Readers of this post, please slow down where children are. In front of schools, in parking lots, in alleyways, on small streets in townhouse complexes. Be vigilant drivers, protectors of children on foot, on bikes, on skateboards. Assume that you have better judgment than they and give them wide berth. Above all, PLEASE pay attention.
Tragedies are far more common than miracles.
Children are blessed at funeral for classmate killed by bus (Ventura County Star)
Journey to Oxnard turns tragic for man, daughter (Ventura County Star)
…a U.S. Border Patrol agent ran over Cruz-Torralva and his daughter with his truck near Dateland, Ariz.
The agent had spotted a dozen immigrants illegally crossing the desert and was following them in the truck, according to a report by the Yuma County Attorney’s Office. When the agent got out of the truck, he heard moaning and discovered he had run over Cruz-Torralva and his daughter. At no time did he see the two, according to the report.