He was 18 when he died. Clear, dry autumn day. Leaving work at noon, in light traffic on the highway.
On my way back to work after lunch, i was headed in the opposite direction, traffic slowed due to the massive emergency response on the other side of the highway. MedEvac helicopter parked on the highway near his upside down sport utility vehicle. There was a large body on the gurney next to the helicopter. Emergency personnel were standing by, but not doing anything. According to the news reports i read later, he’d just been pronounced dead.
Reading about the one car accident, which had traffic stopped for almost five hours, i later learned his age, and gained a glimpse into who he was. He moved to the area with his family in 2005, following Hurricane Katrina’s devastating blow to New Orleans. He lived with his family and worked two jobs, while going to community college part time.
Words from friends and those who knew him were moving. He was a “gentle giant” – 360 pounds, well over six feet tall. And full of love, kindness and humanity. Always ready to lend a helping hand or a strong shoulder to a friend or stranger.
Every day i drive home over the place where he died. The blackened rubber tire marks that cut a swath across three lanes of traffic are beginning to fade. i think about him.
No twenty-first birthday party with friends. No proud graduation day. No engagement or wedding, shared with a delighted family. Children not to be… a proud father, coaching and cheering. No heartbreak as he buries his elderly parents and realizes he’s now the grown up. No mid-life crisis. No retirement planning.
Poof. A future erased. Just like that…