“No! No! No!” I cried. I shouted as if the accident could have been prevented if I could have only yelled louder. The sun was shining down mercilessly and reflecting off of the low metal fence that did not prevent me from seeing what I did not want to see.
The people in the house behind us were gathered on their back porch. Bushes screened my view but I could see that there were several people chatting and enjoying the early morning. Around their large backyard, a young man, probably in his twenties, was recklessly driving a jeep with no doors and a plastic roof. In the passenger’s seat was a young woman with windswept hair, a white shirt, and orange pants. If there were seatbelts neither of them were wearing them.
The wind carried laughter and shrieks of excitement from the jeep and bits of conversation floated from behind the curtain of shrubbery. The jeep was uncontrollably being driven in circles sending dust flying up all around the yard. The girl was clinging to the side of the jeep. Her pale arm could be seen amidst the dust. I stood wishing they would stop; wishing they could drive safer; wishing the dust would settle…wishing it was all over.
I looked away and became preoccupied with my own thoughts. After a few minutes, my mind and eyes were drawn back to the scene. The jeep was still carousing around, the dust was still there, but now something else was present. As if for the first time, I noticed a shrub directly in the middle of their yard. The young man was pushing hard on the accelerator…pushing the jeep to its limit. I could see he was going to try and make it around the shrub in one full circle. My heart skipped a beat as I thought, “No. Don’t do it. Don’t be that silly. Don’t be that silly. Please.” I spoke to him with my thoughts as if he could hear me. I wished he could. But he turned anyway. And he didn’t make it.
The jeep began to make the turn. It was too sharp. The dust swirled more fiercely than before. I clung to the fence until my knuckles turned white and I yelled with all my might, “No! No! No! No!” I could foresee what was going to happen. The jeep couldn’t make the turn. It just couldn’t. It didn’t even try. It overturned as if it was catapulted, trapping the young people right underneath its metal body.
After a second of the heaviest silence I have ever experienced, the screams of excitement turned into screams of shock, panic, and fright. A middle-aged man ran out and tried to free the two trapped under the jeep. A lady stood up from her chair on the porch and proceeded to flail her arms, cry, and wail. It was as if Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and the scene of some horror movie had come to life before my eyes.
I was paralyzed in shock and fear. After a minute the young man emerged unharmed and he and the older man began to gently move the jeep to free the girl still trapped underneath. In the tumult of the moment, I forgot the girl’s pants were orange. My eyes were glued on a section under the jeep that appeared red in the sunlight. The very heat seemed to throb around me. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. My hands still clung to the fence. At that moment I didn’t care if I cut off all circulation in my fingers. I just had to know if the girl was still alive. All time seemed to stand still as the jeep was gently maneuvered so the girl could get out. But would she get out? Was she okay? Why didn’t somebody say something instead of shrieking?
It seemed hours, but in reality it was only about two minutes before the girl emerged and waved to the lady caterwauling on the back porch. She was okay. My knuckles released their chokehold on the fence and I sank to the ground in relief.
The jeep was placed upright and parked by the side of the house. Its carousing days were over. The dust settled, the grass bounced back, time moved on. If the memory of that day lives in the minds of that family as it still lives in mine, I am confident the jeep’s rambunctious days are over…and hopefully for a long, long time.