The question ran over and over in Sylvia’s mind.
I can’t let it go.
She sat down on the slightly damp grass and leaned her head against her knees. The peaceful atmosphere did not match what she felt inside. The early spring sun shone brightly down on the thawing earth. Snow patches remained in shady places, and mud was everywhere else. The little creek was happily flowing with the spring melt, almost overflowing its banks. A robin sat on the railing of the little wooden bridge.
Sylvia breathed in deeply, trying to bring the fresh air into her hurting soul.
God, why would you let something like this happen?
Sylvia glanced at her watch. 3:00 She had been there for two hours! Sighing, she got up from the grass and walked to her car. Opening the door, she got in and started it. She leaned back in her seat as she looked at her reflection in the rear-view. Sylvia Hunt, age thirty-two, 5’7, brown eyes, dark hair…first responder. She looked away. Her face was pale and very thin. She had lost a lot of weight since it happened. Shaking herself, she put the car into gear and drove away. The freeway was crowded. Snow lay melting in small patches in the ditch. Sylvia shook her head to clear the memories
that were crowding into her mind and concentrated on the slippery road.
Suddenly, a car swerved in front of her and spun around. Sylvia grabbed her steering wheel firmly and braked. Pulling to the shoulder, she looked to see where the car had gone. It was lying overturned in the ditch. The hood was smashed in, and the front of the car had collided with a tree. Sylvia drew in her breath sharply. The engine was leaking gas into the snow. Jumping out of her car, she ran over to the back of the car. The back window had shattered. Sylvia looked in. There was the driver, a young woman and she was unconscious. Her chest moved slightly so Sylvia knew she was breathing. Suddenly, a cry came from the seat in the back. Spinning around, Sylvia saw a small baby trapped in a car seat. The roof of the car had pinned it down, and the from seat had fallen against it from the other side. It was a miracle the child was alive.
Quickly, Sylvia pulled out her cell and quickly dialed. A steady male voice answered.
You have called 911. What is your emergency?
Jerry, this is Sylvia. We have a car overturned on the freeway and it’s leaking gas.
How many people are in the vehicle?
Two. Female in an unconscious condition, injuries uncertain. A child trapped in the back seat. This one isn’t going to be easy Jerry. We’re going to need the Jaws of Life to get the kid out.
Ok, 10-4 we will get out there asap. Where are you?
We are right on the shoulder of the freeway, just two minutes from intersection 203.
I will do what I can from this end.
Stay safe. Out.
Sylvia hung up the phone and turned towards the wreck.
I don’t have a fire extinguisher. Why didn’t I remember to put it in my car?
Running towards the front door, she pulled a small window hammer from the pocket of her jeans. Drawing her arm back, she smashed the window and looked in. The woman was still unconscious. Her seatbelt had kept her from flying through the window, but she had a deep gash on her forehead. Reaching in, she ran her hands over the body of the woman. No broken bones. She checked her pulse, which was beating well. Feeling her skin with the back of her hand, she made sure her circulation was not cut off. She had probably just had a concussion and had lost consciousness due to it.
Quickly, she wrapped her arms under the woman’s And moved her across to the window. The woman moaned and half opened her eyes then closed them again. Sylvia tried to open the door, but it was jammed. Kicking it wasn’t working either. There was only one option. Sylvia gently lifted the woman into a half-siting position. Then, as carefully as she could she jumped through the side window and carried the woman after her. Lying her down away from the vehicle, she checked her vitals again. Good, the woman was fine. But the baby!
Sylvia ran back to the vehicle. It had only been two minutes since the crash happened. The car could blow any moment. Sylvia climbed through the rear window. The baby was crying loudly and Sylvia could see that it was having a hard time breathing. Pulling out her pocket knife, she cut through the seat belt strapping it down. She could party reach around the seat. Looking in, she tried to calm it. It was a little girl.
“It’s ok honey. I’ll get you out.” Sylvia spoke quietly.
“Hey can I help?” came a friendly voice behind her.
Sylvia looked back as best she could. It was a guy, maybe in his early thirties. “Keep the traffic going. We don’t want another accident. Nobody else should stop, the emergency vehicles should be here any second.”
“Ok will do.” he turned around and started waving the cars on that had started to gather beside the road. Sylvia hadn’t even noticed. Lord, please help me! Her silent prayer was screaming inside of her.
Suddenly she heard sirens. Sighing in relief she backed out of the car. Jerry came running up and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Ok, we can handle it with the Jaws. The gas is still leaking?” “I didn’t have a fire extinguisher.”
“Ok. Get an extinguisher! We need to…”
Sylvia felt a stinging blow on her face. Spinning around, she felt a hand grab her and drag her across the grass. It took a few seconds for her to realize what had happened. The engine had exploded. The car was in a ball of flame. Sylvia sat up.
“No! The baby!” She screamed at Jerry, but he only shook his head, his face firm, but wet with tears. Sylvia jumped up. She was about to run to the car, but Jerry grabbed her arm.
“Sylvia, no. It’s too late.”
Sylvia collapsed onto the ground and sobbed as if her heart would break. It’s my fault. If
I hadn’t forgotten my extinguisher, she would be safe.
Sirens blared as more emergency vehicles arrived. The freeway was full of police, paramedics and first responders. The familiar blue and red lights flashed around her until she didn’t see anything else. The fire, the smoke, and noise. She didn’t know how long she lay there. The sound of the explosion was the only thing in her ears.
“Hello? Are you ok?”
Sylvia opened her eyes. Someone was tapping on her window. She looked around her with a jerk. Her car was sitting on the shoulder of the freeway. Her clothes were drenched with sweat and she was shaking. The flashback had seemed so real. She hadn’t even noticed that she had pulled over. Rolling down the window, she saw an older woman.
“Sorry I just thought I would stop and see if you were ok. I saw your car on the shoulder when I went to town and it was still here when I came back.”
I have been there for that long? Sylvia cleared her throat.
“Oh yea, I was…thinking.”
The woman smiled. “Must have been quite a thought. Are you alright honey?”
Sylvia closed her eyes. “No. I mean…yes.”
The woman looked at her closely. “Ok then. I better get along home. Glad to see your fine!”
“Thanks,” said Sylvia quietly.
Sylvia drove home slowly. She breathed slowly, trying to stop her rapid heart rate. Would the memories never stop flooding her mind? She had tried so hard to save that little girl’s life and she had failed. It had been five months now since the accident.
She had not been involved in first responding activities since. She did not know if she ever would. When her co-workers had asked her, she just replied that she couldn’t handle it. She knew first responders often went for counseling and psychiatrical treatment to help them cope with the things they saw and did, but Sylvia never had. She was strong and had become used to the blood, the death and the horrific situations she worked with. But this…this was different. The face of that little child flashed through his mind. It was almost more than she could bear.
It had been several weeks since her emotion episode on the freeway. Sylvia had been going grocery shopping when she noticed a sign by the road.
Prayer Meetings Held Daily-Living Grace Church
Sylvia hesitated. Should she go? If anyone needed prayer it was her. She felt her faith had been severally shaken. Even in the midst of her grief, she felt a mixture of
anger towards God and yet a sense of a drowning person clinging to the only hope left. Squaring her jaw, she turned into the exit and drove towards the church. There were only a few cars there and Sylvia with some apprehension pulled into the parking stall.
As she walked in, she saw a small group of people sitting in a circle. A woman rose and came to greet her. Sylvia did a double take. It was the same elderly woman who had talked with her on the freeway.
“Hello sweetie. Welcome here! I was expecting you.”
The woman smiled. “I prayed for you every day since I met you on the freeway. God put it on my heart, and then today I prayed you would come to the prayer meeting today. Well, here you are!”
Sylvia was shocked. This woman prayed for her every day? Someone she didn’t even know cared for her that much?
“That’s what the love of God is honey.”
She took Sylvia by the arm and led her to a chair. Sylvia sat down and looked around her. The elderly woman returned to her seat by a young woman. A flash went through Sylvia’s mind and she began to shake. That woman! She was the mother of the little girl!
The woman looked oddly at Sylvia. “Do I know you? You somehow look familiar. Perhaps you know my mother here?” she gestured to the elderly woman.
“No, I…I don’t know you but we have met…In very extreme circumstances.”
The young woman’s face registered shock. “You. You are the woman who saved my life. I can’t believe it. I have wanted to meet you and thank you but the emergency service said you were going through some emotional damage. I cannot thank you enough for rescuing me.” The woman’s voice broke. “And doing your best to save Arianna.”
Tears welled up in Sylvia’s face. This woman was not bitter. She was not asking Sylvia if she could have done more for her daughter if she could only have tried harder.
“I want you to know.” continued the woman. “It was not your fault. I have accepted the fact of her death and know that Arianna is safe in the arms of Jesus.” The woman got up and went to Sylvia. Wordlessly, she hugged her. The room was silent except for the sound of the two women crying. Sylvia suddenly felt that she could breathe. It was as if a great chest had been lifted from her shoulders. Arianna’s death had been the lowest point in her career, in fact, the lowest point in her life. And the sense of guilt that she could have done more but didn’t have haunted her for months. But Jesus had lifted that burden and used Arianna’s mother of all people to do it.
“I’m Lindsey.” said the young woman finally. “And this is my mother Lauren. Would you like to come to our place for coffee? My husband is all alone right now, he was very tired after work so he couldn’t come to the prayer meeting.”
“Thank you,” Sylvia replied. “I’m Sylvia. It’s very nice to finally meet you. I have a quick errand to run, but can I come to your place after that?”
“Sure. What is your cell number and I can text you the directions.”
As Sylvia drove to the supermarket, she realized she had not felt so happy in a long time. Thank you, God, for lifting this weight from my shoulders. She prayed mentally. Suddenly, Sylvia saw a car in the ditch. The hood had smashed against a tree and it seemed like the frame was almost crushed. A moment of panic filled her. I can’t pull over. I can’t see another person die. I can’t do this anymore. Then a feeling of peace swept over her. You can do this Sylvia. It was as if the Lord was speaking to her right in the car. Don’t lean on your own understanding. I will give you the strength you need. Trust in me Sylvia and be strong and courageous. Sylvia took a deep breath and pulled over. Pulling out her cell, she called 911.
Jerry, this is Sylvia. We have a car that has hit a tree in the ditch. We are on highway 31. We need emergency vehicles out here asap. I don’t know what I am going to find in there yet.
Sylvia? Are you sure you can do this? If you don’t feel ready, just stay in your car till we come.
Jerry, I know I can do this. And I won’t be on my own.