It takes us a few seconds to realize that something is wrong. We are three cars back from the intersection. The light turns green. No one moves.
Darkness hangs like a broken curtain on this cool autumn night. Out of the eerie silence comes a single, solitary wailing. Shadows move in front of the headlights. Our minds struggle to understand what is happening.
“Roll up the windows,” I whisper to Dear Husband, thinking of the kids in the back seat of the car. There are some things that children should never have to know. There are some things that no one should ever have to know.
A crowd is gathering, running from their houses, running as if to will life into the body on the side of the road. It is every mother’s son, every father’s daughter, lying there just beyond view.
The frantic wailing continues, the only sound in an otherwise stoic vigil of silence. At first I think it must be coming from a member of the child’s family, but now I realize I am hearing the soul-sobs of the driver. Arms reach out to grab her on the street. The crowd is attempting to console her – or restrain her? She breaks free, weaving blindly between the cars. Her wails carve out an empty space within our chests. It is hard to breathe.
We have often commented, Dear Husband and I, how frightening it is to drive along here, where almost daily we see children playing dare-devil with the traffic, crossing the street against the red light. An elevated crosswalk was installed years ago to help ease the danger, but for kids it must seem a bothersome waste of time, at least when young legs can run so quickly across the street instead.
But we did not see what happened just a few breathless minutes ago. Whether the accident was caused by the frailties of a human driver or the misjudged impulses of an impatient child, we do not know. In the heaviness of the moment, fault does not seem to matter. The price of the aftermath is far too steep for everyone involved.
We pray aloud for the child, for the driver, for the families. In the distance, the siren-screech of a long parade of emergency vehicles makes its way from the south. We need to move, to clear the area for the workers to get through.
The cars in front of us inch forward slowly, as if moving too quickly would make the night more real. From his vantage point, Dear Husband catches a glimpse of the small body, convulsing. He does not usually dream, this man to my left, but he will dream of this tonight.
We continue to pray aloud, but our prayers become shorter. In the hallowed depths of life-torn-open, our hearts are eventually incapable of saying more than, "God, please— ". Sometimes, the greatest act of faith is trusting God to fill in the blanks.
At home, we are unable to find out more information on the accident. As far as most of the world is concerned, it is a night like any other.
But for a child whose name we do not know, and a driver whose face we would not recognize in daylight, it is a night from which all other days will be marked.
To the One who holds all these things, we can only whisper,
"God, please— ",
and trust that His mercy would complete our prayer.