Monday, July 13, 2009

And then you've killed someone...

This past Saturday a cyclist was killed on a major road near our home.

The driver was driving a blue Mazda. He was not intoxicated. He was driving northbound. The cyclist was traveling south. He crossed four lanes of traffic and into the shoulder, killing a man on a tri bike on impact. At least...I hope it was on impact. They posted pictures on the local internet newspaper. Mostly of the car with the sickening outline of the dead cyclist in the smashed windshield. There were only a few pictures of the literally shredded bike.

The cyclist was on a bike that cost 4K. He was wearing gear and a helmet. He was riding a triathlon time trial bike.

He was riding on one of the widest shoulders in the county. A cycling mecca for road bikers.

The same shoulder my husband pulled the trailer toting our two kids on only hours before alongside friends with their children, and some solo riders.

The same shoulder he and I rode together that evening, and were somewhat annoyed that we were detoured around some car accident.

"Must've been a bad one, for them to close off the road." we muttered to ourselves, cursing the fact that we had to take other, less convenient roads and couldn't do our originally planned out and back route of 23 miles. We settled instead for a hard 19. Michael and the kids had already done 23 that morning with our cycling club while I was at an audition for the show I'm directing north of here...

Michael and the kids rode on the same patch of road where the cyclist was killed.

It's something that I've had a very hard time wrapping my head around.

When I heard about the accident, I choked up - as though I'd lost a dear friend.

I didn't know the man. Never even heard of him, but it still felt like a family member had passed away.

Tragedy in a community of enthusiasts is painful for everyone involved.

I never understood how people could get so upset over the death of a celebrity. Someone they didn't even know. Someone they had never met in person.

And here I am - someone I know even less about - all I know is that we share a common interest - and I am in mourning.

I find myself terrified that I will be in an accident.

I find myself playing that accident over and over in my head - an accident about which I only know the aftermath - putting myself in the man's place. Imagining what that must have been like. Did he have time to think about anything before he passed from this world to the next?

I find myself questioning everything. My faith, my values, the way I spend my time. I want a do-over. I want to pour out my brain and start fresh with a new model.

Today was so stressful and anxiety ridden for me for several reasons, but one of the biggest issues was me pondering my own mortality.

I've found that since I've lived in Maryland it is common for me to face a life or death situation in my vehicle on a daily basis. Back when I lived in PA that wasn't an issue. I think I was honestly really cut off in traffic only once or twice the entire time I drove there.

Here, I am in a near accident on a daily basis. Usually at least once every time I go out somewhere.

Today, a woman drifted into my lane and I had to stop the van so there was no collision. On another trip out today, someone pulled out right in front of me and I was forced to think fast and change lanes.

Now that I'm aware of things, I see scary driving all around me. People who don't seem to know or care that someone was just killed by a wreckless driver.

When I was teaching, another teenager died every year. EVERY year someone was killed from the high school. Some years, more than one teenager. Just this year two kids died within three weeks of one another from that very school. One girl was at a complete stop and a woman blew threw a stop sign and slammed into her, right into the driver's side of the car, dragging the girl's truck fifty feet from a dead stop.

Everything seems so insane. The times I drove like an idiot to get somewhere just a minute faster - it really wasn't worth it.

I am sure, now, to check the shoulder for cyclists before I move there to pass that person turning left (which is legal in Maryland with some stipulations most motorists probably don't even know about). But really, where is it actually safe to ride?

I guess the answer is no where.

It's always a risk to go outside. It's always a risk to wake up in the morning. Does that mean that we stop doing it? Does the risk of death mean the stoppage of living? Sometimes I feel it's what I should do.

Close the curtains, hide beneath the covers, let the days slip away while I doze fittfully, waiting for the Lord to come back in the clouds...probably starving to death in the process...

Life is a risk. You don't really get a choice about it. You come into the world screaming because you've been forced into the only race that ponders its own mortality.

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