Crash on Highway One

I made it to Banff tonight. I’m here to present at CNIE. It has been a crazy trip.

On the way here, we were a minute behind a semi truck hitting a compact car, trapping two occupants, and it appeared that one person flew out into the ditch. We pulled over, ran to their assistance, called 911 (the semi driver didn’t have a cell phone), and using my GPS was actually able to tell emergency services pretty much exactly where it happened. It looked really grim at first, after seeing the car I figured there was no hope. I tried to comfort the victims in the car, telling them that help was on the way. Claudia got some blankets from the semi-driver and comforted the other woman in the ditch. About 20 minutes, a police car pulled up. I yelled at the officer to come down to the ditch. As he walked down into the water, he started talking to the people in the car. That’s when I noticed that the officer was a student that I had once taught as a preservice teacher (he became an RCMP officer after he got his B.Ed). In the insanity, we quickly recognized each other but didn’t talk about it until the ambulances arrived, and after I gave my statement. The whole incident … incredibly surreal.

I am thinking that everyone will be OK. The woman in the ditch had the worst injuries, but she received attention excellent attention when the paramedics arrived. I am so happy that help came soon.

Here is a photo I took after everyone was being cared for.

Crash on the Way to Calgary

So after all of this, on the way home, two things come to mind.
1) As much as I am enjoying the 3662008 project, and actually starting to think like a photographer in some ways, I couldn’t imagine being the photographer that takes photos of people while they suffer. Remember the fate of Kevin Carter?

2) As much as I tout online social networks, I have been having these really weird coincidences lately, meeting people on the road, in places where neither of us should logically be. In the last few months, I’ve had at least 5 experiences with old connections like this. What does this mean? It’s kind of freaking me out!

3) Hug your family … hard. In fact, my little girl is sleeping on my lap as I type this. Tragedy can happen at any moment, and we are lucky to have every second we can with our loved ones.

13 thoughts on “Crash on Highway One

  1. I hadn’t seen the Carter photograph before now. It seems impossible that anyone could take it and walk away. But before we are too hard on Carter, we need to remember that we are all, as a species, complicit. We have a long way to go before we understand what it is to have morality in a society.

    But anyhow, good job at the crash site. A lot of people would have driven on, fearing it would be too much for them. I used to drive a lot in northern Alberta and have come on scenes that were just awful. Only once was I the first responder, and it was such a sense of relief to discover it wasn’t horrible.

    The coincidences, I think, stack up as you get older. It’s a matter of simple probability: you meet more people, and you have more chances to meet people. We do not live in a large society. The chances of meeting someone you know are only 1/10000 or so – which makes it a virtual certainty over time.

  2. Oh Alec, you have had some amazing and unbelievable experiences, and you always learn from them and share with others. I am so glad all of you are safe and you were there to help and comfort the accident victims. There was a time of tragedy in my life where people tried to tell me that everything happens for a reason. I decided those people just didn’t get it. Things don’t happen for a reason. It takes a person with strength of character, vision and creativity to give meaning to small coincidences and horrific tragedy. As you search for meaning, I hope you continue to share your experiences with us. Thank you for giving us perspective and encouraging everyone to spend a litte more time with our loved ones!

  3. I’m glad you were there to help those people. I have been in a really bad car wreck and was amazed at how many nice people arrived to help. We were given photos of our wreck (it all was a blur when it happened) and the photos really brought out how close we were to dying but I guess God had other plans for us. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Wow, what a story (and photo), thanks for sharing, but more so, thanks for stopping. I too wonder about a world where people drive by and say, “oh *someone* else will stop and help.

    We had an experience like this (though not with snow) in 2000 in the way to lake Powell for a vacation where the car my step son was driving was swiped by a tanker truck, spun around, and smashed up (no one hurt). I will never forget that surreal feeling of standing in shock by the roadside and being, for the first time, the subject of rubber necking curious drivers.

    So triple kudos for you for reacting quickly, helping, being there. I’d just stay wide-eyed wondered about the unusual meetups. Serendipity happens!

  5. Well done Alec & thanks for sharing. I haven’t ever been the first on the scene like that and couldn’t imagine the emotion and adrenalin you must of had during this event. You & Claudia did well. I am glad that you and your family made it safely to Banff. Have fun on your trip. Take Care.

  6. An incredible addition to your trip! You actually have provided another reason to purchase/learn GPS as well

    Good work “on the scene” as well.

    I hope you and your family enjoy Banff.

  7. Alec, I believe we are purposefully in places for a reason. I am glad you were able to gracefully handle the situation, and even act on the events (like getting blankets for victims who may have been in shock) with a calmness that can only be described as surreal. It does cause me to draw my family nearer and be thankful there are people in our world just like you. Thanks for the good deed.

  8. Thanks everyone. Some of you mentioned the issue with some people not stopping. We were the ONLY car that stopped, and dozens went by while we waited for the ambulance. No one had a cell phone at the scene, and it just makes me think how much worse it could have been. A small detour from your busy life can make a huge difference.

  9. Wow, Alec. I’m not the least bit surprised that you did exactly what you did. I know you well enough to know that you were only doing what came very naturally to you in a very unnatural circumstance. Three years ago, we went on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride coming back from TLt in Regina. It could have been awful, but we somehow walked away without a scratch. My biggest hope would have been to have you — or someone like you — driving a minute behind us when it happened. You’re an other-centred, caring person — and it makes most everything else fall into insignificance.

    Think I’ll go hug my family now. Thanks for letting us know about this.

  10. It’s almost as if the cosmos is reminding you how important you are to people, how much you help people and affect their lives. I would like to think I too would have the courage (and yes, it is courage) to stop and help, even if the thought would frighten me. Long ago I was driving late at night down a country road near Bakersfield, and my car spun out into a ditch. It could not be seen from the road, yet it was only minutes before a pickup truck pulled up, and the driver not only helped me, he even got a rope and towed my car out. There are very special people out there, Alec, and you’re one of them.

  11. Wow, what a gripping story. I am so glad that you and your family are safe and so proud to know someone as wonderful and caring as you are. Those people are so fortunate that you came by and your story reminds me of my own mantra of “live every day like it’s your last, because it could be”. I lost my Dad very suddenly in ’95 and have lived that mantra everyday. I will tell everyone in my family how much I love them and how precious they are. You also inspire me to be a better person – pay it forward. As for the coincidences, I think you learn and grow from each experience, and while you should reflect on them, try not to be too freaked out by them, just enjoy the ride.

  12. I am saddened to hear how so many other people didn’t care enough to stop. Maybe that says something about how busy and self-centered our lives have become – we forget that we are part of a larger community. Stopping to help says a lot of good things about you and Claudia. You are setting a good example for your kids about what *really* matters in life.

    I’m glad you and family are OK. Drive home safely.

  13. Alec, that was an unbelievable story, it must have been meant to be that day that you came along and that you had the technology to help the situation. Anyway, my best friend was in a head on collision on the bridge north of Golden a little over a year ago. The whole family survived but he was trapped in the vehicle for a couple hours until the jaws of life cut him out! Those roads in the mountains are busy and dangerous!

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