"My déjà-vu from hell" - A True Story
I witnessed two accidents at the same crossing
It was a normal Tuesday morning en route to school: dark, rainy, umbrellas up, coats zipped tightly around our necks. As my friend and I waited at our normal place for Sarah to cross and meet us at the traffic lights, we could vagualy make out the figure of her stomping down the other side of the road, her hood pulled tightly around her face, clearly in a bad mood.
“You’re late. What took you so long?” we shouted over the noise of the traffic, no idea of what horror we were about to witness. As Sarah began to answer and her foot left the pavement, all seemed to go silent in our realisation. It happened so fast. “SARAH!” we screamed, but it was too late. She'd been hit.
I only have one vision of that exact moment...that moment when body meets car. I see a doll’s body, floppy and helpless, with a facial expression so pale, so dead. Her hip impacting with the Range Rover’s headlights, her feet 2ft off the ground, ankles at a right angle from the sheer speed.
The next thing I remember is letting out the most blood curdling scream, while watching a bus coming the other way slam on its breaks so as not to run over the limp body lying on the road in front of it.
“If one thing was for sure, it was that I never wanted to experience anything like this again…”
She’d travelled 5m through the air and now lay there in a swirling puddle of deep red.
I was just 11. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I was beside myself with shock and panic. My friend had run home in panic, and if it wasn’t for the two women who put their arms around me to calm and comfort me, I don’t know what I’d’ve done. I was out of control, unable to think straight.
I looked down the road and managed to see through the wall of rain both her battered shoes lying there. I remembered someone once telling me that in a car accident the one thing that you can guarantee to happen is that your shoes will come off. I then looked the other way. There was her flute and, 3m away, the strap of her bag which had been torn from her during the impact. The car had been travelling 35mph.
I remember watching the driver step out of his car and look up to the sky as if to say, “Oh God, please don’t let her be dead.” As the women held me, I heard one say to the other, “Jesus Christ, look at all the blood.” It wasn't until then that I realised I might have just lost my best friend; in a split second, my world could have changed forever. I looked down at Sarah. Our eyes caught one another's as she weakly stuttered, “My back…my back…” Her face was wet. From rain or tears, I don’t know.
From that moment on my memory turns blank. The next memory of that day is me sitting in school’s reception, my Mum, Dad and sisters rushing towards me. As mum hugged me, I remember her whispering, “My heart sank when someone told me a young girl had been hit. I thought it was you. Thank God it’s not you.”
One by one, I answered their questions, quietly sobbing into a tissue. I ran that image through and through in my head and I wondered if she was alright. If one thing was for sure, it was that I never wanted to experience anything like this again.
“ I whispered to myself, "Oh God, not again. Please, not again…" ”
But then, 4 years later, on Wednesday 30th January at 6pm, my worst fears were realised. I was walking my dog past the same crossing that Sarah’s accident had taken place. The street was dark and empty by this time. Not a sound was to be heard, except for that of two younger boys who I had passed coming the opposite way.
A few seconds later I heard a sound that would stay with me for the rest of my life. A sound that had been engulfed by all the traffic on the morning of Sarah’s accident. A deadly sound. Deep. Hollow. This sound cut through the silence like a bullet through glass. It was the sound of car meeting body. No other like it exists.
“Two accidents, two casualties, and just one me. This was the worst déjà-vu I’d ever had…”
I knew instantly, almost instinctively, what had happened. I whispered to myself , “Oh God, not again. Please, not again.” I couldn’t believe it: two accidents, two casualties, and just one me. This was the worst déjà-vu I’d ever had.
I spun round and, seeing the heap on the road in the same place Sarah had landed, I began to panic. I found myself sprinting over to him and asking the stupidest of questions: “Oh my God, are you alright?!” But suddenly something inside me clicked and instinct took over. I realised the only person there that could help was me; the woman in the car was hysterical.
I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “You can do this. This boy needs your help, just like Sarah did, so don’t let him down. Help him”. I owed it to Sarah. I got my phone out and, for the first time in my life, I dialled 999.
Whilst answering their questions, the boy suddenly stood up and started screaming in my face. “What’s happened to me?! Where have my shoes gone? Give me back my shoes!”. He was concussed; his forehead had split open.
Nevertheless, I plucked up the courage to calmly assure him it was just a cut, and he was going to be fine.
After waiting for what seemed an eternity, the ambulance arrived and it was then out of my hands; it was over as quickly as it had happened. I watched them lift him inside the vehicle and allowed myself to take a deep breath. I looked up into the black sky and wondered, "Why me?", a question asked by the human mind too often for our own good. But still life goes on, as rough and unpredictable as it will always be. We live. We learn. You figure that these events are just another of life's lessons along a bumpy highway. If one thing is for certain, it's that I never want to go down this road again.
A true story by Daniella Wood
© 2009 by Daniella Wood. All rights reserved. Copying without permission is illegal and will be prosecuted.