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It was a sunny afternoon, the rare winter day in Texas when the air was cold, yet the sunshine had a way of making you feel warm in spite of the chill. Ella had gotten off work a little early and was on her way home to check in with the family before making a trip to the hobby shop. She’d been sneaking a taste from a bag of gummy bears when one fell in her lap, and in the space of two seconds, her life changed forever.
Driving was a thrill for Ella, always had been, and she sort of took her skills for granted, knowing she followed the rules, and she had become quite cavalier in her attitude when behind the wheel. Most of the time she paid attention to the road, kept a sharp eye out for children and animals, yet sometimes had experienced a close call or two. Like one time while driving through the neighborhood, a cat had run smack into her tire, Ella glanced in the rearview mirror, thinking she ran over a stick and, to her horror, saw the kitty go tumbling in the street behind her. Thing was, she never even saw it! Had it been her mistake, or just bad timing?
Luckily, the kitty made it, yet Ella was certainly traumatized and never went down that street again. On a separate occasion, she had been humming along to the radio, very much in her own world, when out of nowhere, a child’s soccer ball rolled out in the street in front of her. Her quick reflexes caused her to see it and break in time, but now she avoided school zones like the plague. She was careful not to text and drive, loving the fact that she could receive phone calls through the car’s audio system, and frowned at driver’s who always seemed to be on the phone.
While what happened to Ella while driving that day could happen to anyone, in that moment, she had the incredulous feeling that this could not be real. She was in shock, and barely could bring herself to face the nightmare waiting outside her car. In that two seconds she had glanced down at her shirt to find the fallen candy, a young boy had chosen that precise moment to step out from behind a truck, and Ella had struck him. Finally gathering her wits, she flung open the car door and rushed to his aid. He was bleeding, oh God, he was bleeding so badly! She screamed for help and ran back to her car to grab her phone. Hurrying, she rushed back to the boy’s side, calling 911 in the process. It was all she could do not to get sick herself, mustering the strength to murmur “I’m sorry” over and over in his ear, trying to comfort him as best she could.
Evidently, someone had called the EMS before she had, the glorious sound of the siren’s wail could be heard and Ella pleaded with the boy to just hang on, help was coming. “I’m here, I’m right here with you. Please, hang on”, tears streaming down her face. By now, there were other neighbors running to join them, the boy’s mother among them. “What did you do???” she screamed when she saw Ella, leaning over her son. “I just looked down for a second, I swear! He came out of nowhere! I’m so sorry!” The mother was inconsolable, as was Ella. The police and ambulance arrived simultaneously, while the paramedics attended to the boy, the police questioned Ella, once she had calmed down enough to give them her statement.
This was no cat, or squirrel and Ella would never be able to recover, she thought. After a long night first at the police station and then the hospital, after she was charged and released, Ella went home with her family, they had joined her at the hospital. By the grace of God, the boy had only minor injuries, all the blood had come from a laceration on his head when Ella’s car just grazed the side of him. As for Ella, there would no longer be joy in driving again. In fact, she could not bring herself to drive at all. Months went by during which she got therapy to deal with her feelings of guilt. The boy’s mother had forgiven her, but she would never be able to forgive herself. Through her church she found a sense of peace, after a time, and her family was supportive, though she secretly wondered if they were just placating her-scared she might harm herself.
Some months later, she joined a support group, and with their help, she gained some strength and got back her confidence. She found solace in helping others, and soon sought out a job at a crisis center, where she could give back to her community. It didn’t totally erase her guilt and shame, yet one day she thought, through her actions a life might be saved, and that was a comfort she felt she could live with.