Shards of Glass, Shattered Heart This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 17, 2011
July 24, 2010 – California Highway 20

You’ve seen the way Jack Frost paints your windows in the winter: the cold laces the glass in chilly tendrils of beauty. Children will trace the lines with their fingers, curling and waving with each branch of winter. You can’t see the landscape that lies outside the glass but you can see the light shining through the ice. For a moment, the death and cold of winter is a beautiful thing you treasure. My windshield was like that. I couldn’t see outside it but I could see the hard claws of the shattered lines. The windshield was still there – crystal blue and white instead of clear and true. It resembled those tendrils of ice but while Jack Frost’s finger on my bedroom window was beautiful, this was not. The hard lines left by the impact of a Suburban on my Jeep were terrible, ugly, and sickening to me.

As I look back, I’m still amazed at how quickly everything happened. Only a few moments before the glass shattered, we had been driving home from a family camping trip. My fifteen-year-old sister, I called her Goose, slept in the seat next to me. My family and I were on the final stretch home. I was looking forward to getting a real shower instead of the lake-baths I had been taking for the past week. I was singing along to the cheesy lyrics of Garth Brooks, badly and off key but I was happy. I still remember the song: “Standing Outside the Fire.” It was a favorite song.

“Life is not trying, just merely surviving, just--“

The lines of the chorus were the last thing I heard before adrenaline knocked consciousness of music away from my mind. The white Suburban was lying in wait on the side of the way home. The young driver didn’t see me and my small Jeep. Like the gazelle trying to flee from the hunting lioness, I swerved. Goose was awake now but I’ll never know if she made any sound of despair before the sound of rubber sliding on asphalt, crushing metal, and shattering glass took control of my world. A blur of colors assaulted my sight, the sounds of chaos stabbed my ears.

It attacked my senses all at once: wailing, screeching, shattering, crushing, screaming, grinding.

Then stopped.

Everything around me seemed frozen. Nothing moved. The world went from an explosion of sound to deep silence. My mind screamed. It told me I should move. It told me I should do something, anything, but I couldn’t remain where I was. I felt no pain, even with all that had happened, my body was a rock. My body was unfeeling, simply operating. Then my sister’s name seemed to be the only thing in my mind.

The impact had been on her side. What had happened? That was the one thought screaming in my mind. I looked over to her, adrenaline pumping and only one thought pulsing the blood through my body. She wasn’t moving, but I could see her breath. Her knees were still pulled up onto the seat, like before, only now her bare feet were now resting on my backpack that sat on the floorboards in front of her. They were still dirty from running around the campsite in flip-flops.

I noticed the small, dirty feet – black and brown – before I noticed the bright red that was dripping onto her leg. It was the sunlight blinking off it that had caught my attention. It didn’t seem right to me. The happy sun should not be shining on something that I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to see the blood of my sister outside of her body. I didn’t want to ever see that, but there I was, sitting in my dead Jeep. Impossible as it may sound, I swear I could hear it dropping onto her skin. Everything seemed to be heightened by the adrenaline. I could see, hear and smell everything. I ran around to the other side of the Jeep to get to her. The door had been partially ripped off already from the Suburban and I didn’t have to do much to pull back the door.

She was moving now but just barely. Her eyes had opened but they were blank…they didn’t have any kind of emotion in them. Just simply blank. She was looking around but didn’t seem to know what was going on at the time. I kept saying it was going to be okay. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to touch her or move her – I was too afraid to. I was afraid I might screw something else.

That’s when the bozo that hit me got out of his car. He was more scared than I was. He was stuttering and stammering over his words, not being able to form any one word correctly. He kept asking if the “little girl” was all right. He kept saying he didn’t see me and that he was sorry.

You’re sorry? I thought. My baby sister was sitting in the passenger seat of my ruined Jeep and this guy was sorry? No, not yet he wasn’t. My temper was rising. Someone had hurt my sister. I didn’t know how badly she was hurt and, at that moment, I didn’t care. I knew she was alive, hurt, but alive. Now that I look back, I remember reasoning out hitting him. He took away my shower, my car, hurt my baby sister, and, to add to it, interrupted my favorite song.

“What the hell were you thinking?” I yelled as I advanced towards him. He backed up slightly but that may only have been because my dad had come up behind me. I turned to face him and ran into him. He had been driving in front of me with my mom and I found out later that he had seen the whole thing in his rearview mirror. I was still going crazy from the adrenaline. I remember thinking that I wanted dad to kill the kid that hit my sister.

“Go to your mom. Go calm your mom down,” he said, pointing. I’d never seen my mother’s face so pale. Her whole body was shaking. I was once again saying that it was going to be okay. “I’m okay. She’s okay. It’ll be alright, Mom,” I repeated it over and over again but Mom seemed unable to hear my voice. I was only able to get her to sit down on the curb but not for long. She was calling people…people from church, people from our home school group, from home.

Medics had shown up by then. They were pulling my sister from the car, asking her various questions. Where does it hurt the most? Are you okay? Can you move? My mind was a blur by that point. Nothing really made sense at the time. There were people asking me what happened. Dad was telling me to sit down and not do anything. Mom was crying and wasn’t letting me go for even a short length of time.

The thing that made it truly set in that my sister was hurt were the medics loading her into the back of the ambulance. The lights were circling brightly, even in the afternoon sun, and I thought it was strange I couldn’t hear the sirens. I remember it being quiet. How could that have been? I was standing on the shoulder of a busy highway, I had just been in a serious accident, and there were emergency vehicles around me, yet there wasn’t any sound. I don’t know why I expected there to be more sounds happening. I had never been in an accident but I had always imagined that it was loud. It was silent though.

My folks insisted that I go to the hospital. I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I needed to. Sarah was going to be airlifted to a hospital two hours drive away from home. I didn’t want to go to the hospital near home. I wanted to be in the helicopter with her. I wanted to stay with her and make sure she was okay. I had to. This kid had nearly killed her. What if something happened on the way to the hospital? What if something happened that was worse than this? I didn’t see how something worse could happen but I was scared that something would happen. I was worried that if I let her out of my sight, something worse would happen to her. I hadn’t been there to block the hit the first time and I had been in the same car with her. How could I stop something from hurting her again from so far away?

The ambulance drove away, holding my little sister and taking her down the same road she and I were just hit on. The last thing I saw of Goose before they closed the ambulance doors was her two blackened feet, dirty from camping. The medics strapped me down and it took all my will not to tear away from the board. I was tied down now…I couldn’t move. I still had all the adrenaline me. I still felt the need to protect Goose from everything. I couldn’t do that with the damn straps holding me to the hard board.

Something I never knew before that day is that you can’t hear the sirens of the ambulance from the inside. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time though. I just wanted to get to Goose. I had nothing wrong with me. Why the hell were they making me wait on this hard bed? I thought. It made no sense to me then. In some ways, it still doesn’t make sense.

The one injury I received that day actually was not from the accident. I wiped a shard of glass off my shoulder and it cut my fingertip. I felt like an idiot asking for a Band-Aid at the hospital when I could hear the man next to me getting stitches from slicing his finger open deeply. The elderly woman across the way had to stay the night in the hospital before being moved somewhere else because she had broken both arms falling from a step ladder. Both these people having this happen to them and there I was asking for a bloody Band-Aid.

I was released within the hour and by the time Mom and I had made the drive down to see Dad and Goose in the Roseville Hospital, she had been released as well. She was sitting in a wheelchair, her face was still bloody, and her feet still dirty and bare.

Three images will always be imprinted on my mind. I won’t ever be able to forget them.

One: the image of my shattered windshield.

Two: Goose’s bare dirty feet

Three: The way the red in the ambulance rotating lights matched perfectly the blood on my sister’s forehead.





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