Here is what happened yesterday on our way out for lunch. The newscast is at the end of the story.
Life is unpredictable, believe it!
We were on our way to an early lunch before Caitlin returned to Dallas later in the day. We came to a 4 way stop about a mile or so from our house with 4 empty fields at the corners. Turning west we saw a huge black plume of smoke in the backyard of a home in a subdivision beyond the big empty field. My first thought was it was a barbeque gone bad, maybe a propane tank had exploded or something. But in a split second we all knew it was more than that. That it was so big and so black it had to be the actual house on fire. Linda and I decided to go into the subdivision to see if we could help.
This is what we saw.
When we arrived there were 3 people in front, the couple who owned the house and were in it at the time and a 3rd person who I thought was a neighbor. There was another neighbor on the side of the house using a water hose to try to stop the flames that had started to burn the fence. After we ascertained from them that there were no other people or animals in the house Linda and Caitlin helped the wife of the couple, who seemed to be in traumatic shock, while I went with the husband back into the front hall of the house looking for keys and medicines. We had to go ask the wife where they were though and by the time we got back the smoke coming from the back of the house was funneling directly to the front door and was getting pretty thick. With no life to worry about we decided to not attempt to go in and search for anything. Within minutes the house was engulfed like this.
Just another lazy day
By this time the owners had told us what had happened. They had been sitting on their couch, looking at their laptops doing some online shopping when the husband got up to go get ready for the day. He was in the bathroom when the power went out and a split second later they hard a loud bang and then an even bigger bang that shook the house. They ran into the living room to find a car had smashed into the back of their house. A woman was sitting stunned in the driver’s seat. The wife said she saw the fence was down and the grass was on fire behind the car. They screamed for her to get out of the car and the husband screamed even louder for her to turn the car off. She took a few seconds but eventually did those things. He yelled to his wife to get dressed (she had been in her nightgown) and they were out the door in just a few seconds. They believe the driver went out the back of the house and came around the side towards the front. She turned out to be the woman I had seen in the front as soon as we arrived. She took off right as she heard the sirens coming.
Linda takes action
Linda is always great in a crisis. She had been out of the car and helping the wife of the homeowner couple immediately. The woman was very shaky, obviously in shock at the turn of events. We reassured her, comforted her and held her up in case she got weak in the knees. Linda noticed right away she had no shoes on and ran back to the car to get her an extra pair she had. She then escorted the wife away a bit and a neighbor found a chair for her to sit in. Neighbors were out supplying water, lending cell phones, telling who lived where and how to contact them. We eventually had her go into the home across the street to get cool and not have to watch her home being destroyed. Linda and Caitlin stayed with her for the rest of the time until her daughter arrived. They both calmed her, found her a specific med she needed and listened to her talk about her loss.
The rest of the afternoon was spent helping and watching. It is a harsh reminder that zero is guaranteed in life. And when I say zero. I mean zero. Nothing. Most lives reflect the idea that all will go according to at least statistical norms. But then, on a lazy last day of summer, a car plows through your house and you are almost killed and your house and all your physical possessions are destroyed. It happened in a flash and their lives are changed forever. I have thought about this sort of randomness many times over the decades since I was in an accident early in my life. And now a prime example of it was happening right in front of me.
I probably wasn’t suppose to go around back, but I really wanted to see what had caused the damage. I wasn’t stopped so I just kept walking until I was in the back yard.
The Long Off Road
If you look close you can see the weaving tracks her car made. She made a direct hit on the electrical transformer box, blew out power, started the fire, then slammed into a house. She was later found hiding out in a church parking lot about 1/2 a mile away or so. She was brought back for the home owner to ID her and then led off to jail, charged with at least leaving the scene of an accident. It appeared later that she had been huffing some substance when she veered off the road. What it was is not known yet, but when I saw her in the police car getting ID’d she had a very hollow empty look. She was scared and stunned. I kept thinking how she must have going over all the steps that led her to make such a terrible mistake in her life. I expect her depression to be great.
Almost immediately after I posted the pics I had heard from Michelle Lowry at KJRH Ch. 2 asking if they could use the pics and telling me that a reporter would be there in about 10 minutes. I went to the husband and asked if wanted to be interviewed on camera and then asked if he was ok with me telling the story to whatever reporter showed up. Liz Bryant showed up shortly thereafter and proceeded to interview the police and fire department spokespeople. She briefly interviewed me so I could tell the homeowners’ story.
Strangers no more
We stayed until the homeowner’s children and other family members arrived. It was as if we were now leaving dear friends. We wished them well and went on our way to what was now a late, not an early, lunch. We drove back to see what was happening about 2 hours later and the last fire truck was just packing up to go home.
Drawing and story by Marty Coleman