Sudden Change

from Brian Dotson

In winter, there is a “magic line” on Highway I-90 in Washington state where the rain stops and the snow begins. Many accidents happen when drivers meet this sudden change in the weather. To make it even worse, the “magic line” is preceded by a long blind curve. I’m a firefighter, part of a first-response medical team. I know that stretch of highway all too well.

This was a typical call. On a cold November morning, a vehicle had spun out and rolled over at that spot. Fortunately, the driver was only moderately hurt. We got him out of the car, strapped him to a backboard, and loaded him into the medical vehicle. I was the crew chief and it was my job to ensure the safety of the whole scene.

Cars were still coming fast around the blind curve, unaware of the accident scene and the treacherous conditions. I began walking toward the curve, facing traffic, placing flares in the middle of the road to warn drivers of what was ahead. My partner Glen, working in the medical vehicle, kept watch on me out the back window.

As I placed the last flare I saw a car, coming too fast around the curve, lose control and go into a spin. He was headed right for me.

Suddenly, I was no longer standing in the middle of the road, but fifty feet away on the shoulder. I don’t know how I got there. It happened in an instant. The car hurtled right through the spot where I’d been standing, then swerved down the road, sideswiped our medical vehicle, careened off another car, and slid into a ditch.

The car was wrecked, but the driver was okay. My crew emerged from the medical vehicle with only minor bumps and scratches.

My partner, Glen, rushed over to me, grabbed my shoulders and yelled into my face, “Are you okay?!”

He had watched the whole scene. One moment I’d been in the path of death, and the next moment I was gone. He was sure I’d been killed.

I couldn’t explain it either. We walked together to that spot in the road.

We saw my footprints and the tire marks where the car should have hit me, and my footprints fifty feet away on the shoulder.

There were no footprints in between.