October 8, 2013

Known Unknowns

500 feet from our front door
I don't generally write about this sort of thing.

You see, I don't want people to worry. Most of all, I don't want my mother-in-law to worry. I know she already does.

But sometimes, it's just a little too close to home.


We live a block away from an intersection with a traffic light. It's a small light, but it's there. Only, people act like it's not. People run that light constantly.

In fact, in the first months we lived here, there was a nasty accident there. I heard the screeching tires, the crash of metal against metal, and then after a moment of eerie silence, screaming. A woman screaming.

I'll never forget the sound of that scream. The bright summer sunlight coming in through the window. The peacefulness of the afternoon until that moment.

Somebody had run through the light, speeding down the road at a plainly illegal velocity, and collided with a car going through the intersection. And that car had spun into the bus stop at the intersection, severely injuring a woman standing there, and killing her four year old son.

I walked down to the corner, and watched the paramedics take them away. The driver of the speeding car was also grievously injured. The passengers in his car were both killed.

I was seven months pregnant, with twins. I wasn't there to gawk, I was there because I needed to know. We'd just bought our condo. We weren't even finished unpacking. And in a few months we'd be a family of four, walking that street every day.

We live next to a stop sign. There is one block- ONE BLOCK- between our stop sign and that light. And people take off from our stop sign as if they're drag racing, all day, every day.

I've actually been hit in front of our building while I put the baby in her car seat.

I try not to worry about it. I drive very carefully, always double checking that nobody is speeding towards that light, no matter which street I'm on. No matter what my signal says.

And we're on the other end of the block. I don't worry that the kids will be hit by a car on their own front yard.

But on Sunday morning, there was another horrific accident. At the exact same spot. That same intersection. I was lucky enough to be asleep, or I'm sure the sound of it would haunt my nightmares as well.

The woman killed on Sunday
Another speeding maniac ran the light. And another person was killed- a passenger in the car that ran the light.

She was eighteen, and she had a seven month old son.

The coffee shop at that corner, I go there with my kids. I send Poppa and Grandpa there when they need to work uninterrupted, to drink some coffee and use the wifi. My parents and my in-laws take turns bringing their granddaughters their for donuts with sprinkles.

On Monday I took the girls to preschool, and we drove past the spot. In fact, we never go ANYWHERE in the car without passing it. The traffic light was down- literally. It had been knocked completely over by the accident. So we lingered at the intersection, waiting our turn to go through. And the girls looked out the window and exclaimed in delight at what they saw- balloons, and a giant teddy bear, sitting on the street.

I told them I didn't know why they were there. I didn't want to tell them that a little baby lost his mommy. That mommies die. Suddenly, out of the blue.

It seemed a little heavy before dropping them off at preschool for the day.

But it is a danger they need to be aware of. And it makes me question my choices, my decision to keep my family in the city when there are these kinds of dangers. Two fatal accidents at the same intersection in less than five years... the toll is too high.

Car accidents happen, I know. They happen a lot at that intersection. Usually without lethal results, but still. Frequently.

And in most cases, yes, the driver is under the influence. That certainly seems to be the case with this latest crash.

So what can I do? I flail my arms and the people who speed down my block, but they ignore me. I hold my tongue instead of running down the street, screaming at them, "You're going to kill somebody!" Maybe I should stop holding back. Maybe I should be that nutty neighborhood lady on a personal crusade to make her one single block a safer place to live. I don't know.

I don't know when the next accident will be, or if this is the final straw, and now the local police and alderman will do something. I don't know if the next time a car breezes through the intersection it will be the middle of the day, or the middle of the night. I don't know if there will be injuries, fatalities. I don't know anything, except that this isn't going to stop people from drinking and driving, or from tearing off from the stop sign in front of our building as though they were preparing a plane for takeoff.

For now all I can do is keep my eye on that intersection. Keep driving slowly, watching every side of the road, mistrusting every driver on my block.

And wishing they were all looking out for each other a little more.


  1. How awful. People need to realize their actions have consequences. Stopping for a light is required, not optional. And no matter how much of a hurry someone is in, it's not worth endangering others' lives.

  2. I was in a nasty accident a few years ago--a lady just pulled out in front of me doing a left turn into the grocery store, didn't even look to see if anyone was coming--and it's made me very cautious when I'm driving. I go slow through every intersection, I fret over cars crossing the center line, I almost never drive over the speed limit. My husband thinks I'm crazy, but accidents happen so fast. Even my last accident, only traveling at 30 mph, it happened so fast, I didn't know what happened until someone told me afterward, and it was a lot more serious than I thought a 30 mph accident could be. It really drove home to me that we should all be very cautious about driving and that people need to take more seriously how dangerous cars are. They travel way faster than people are meant to travel and are much heavier than people, and we are not wired to really think of movement in terms of high speed vehicles. They are incredibly helpful and useful tools, but they should be respected.

    I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of life in your neighborhood. :( That's so hard. I don't know if it's better in the country, though. As a kid, I lost so many friends to car accidents, four wheeler accidents, and just dumb, stupid accidents. Death happens everywhere. Human life is fragile. All you can do is be careful and appreciate life for the beautiful, temporary gift it is.

  3. That is so incredibly sad. Your last line says it all, though, that is exactly the issue. We need to have more respect for each other. There are signs in a neighborhood near my son's soccer field: "Drive like your children live here." We all need to do that, everywhere. I pray that you all will stay safe.

  4. Oh that's so so sad. We see accidents like this here too a lot. Big city life I guess but never make it any less sad.

  5. Our last house was similar. We lived in a neighborhood, but our house was at a T with our street ending in a cul de sac so people ran the stop sign all the time. I was almost hit more times than I can count trying to pull into my driveway and we witnessed several accidents. We finally complained to the police enough that they started putting a patrol car there enough to keep people in check. It's sad that people don't think how their actions affect others.



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