taking it for granted

Today, I was reminded, yet again, of how short life can be.

I arrived at the office bright and early for deadline day. The office itself was buzzing–computers, phones, printers, and coffee makers all whirring in response to the madness. It was my second Wednesday in the newsroom, which meant my second attempt to keep up with the flood of pages ready for proofing before the printing deadline of 2pm. From 8am until 2pm, I scribbled in red pen, stopping only once for an extended period of time.

I stopped because I was asked to drive across the county to shoot some quick photographs for the cover. Yes, this is a typical scene–a newspaper cover left to last minute–but the assignment was atypical. I was given directions to an intersection where, unbeknownst to me, a fatal car accident had taken place 12 hours prior. I was given directions to go see if the family of a 15-year-old girl had paused in their mourning to put up a memorial for their dead daughter.

Car accidents always hit me funnily. I never quite know how to react when I hear of one. I have never been in a single car accident, and I thank the universe for that. So, when I hear that an accident has taken place, that a 16-year-old driver has been rushed to the hospital and is still in a coma, that a 15-year-old soccer player and babysitter and sister to 3 was pronounced dead on the scene…well, I can never quite fathom how those kids’ last moments felt.

But I want to. Oh, do I want to. I want to know what would run through my head in my final breaths of life. I wish I knew the terror of squealing brakes and airbags and breaking glass.

Yes, that’s right, sometimes I wish I had experienced a car accident. I realized this today because, despite knowing that she, this innocent girl who was the pride of her class and a joy to be around, would never breathe again, despite knowing that she’d been killed by a slight misstep, despite everything, I still raced around the curves of M22 and County Road 669 at 70 miles an hour. I still drove like a maniac on slick roads, knowing that my tires are well-worn and need to be replaced as soon as I can scrape together the cash. I still didn’t wear my seatbelt.

And so, in the wake of the tragedy that struck Leelanau County today, I wish I were able to experience something near to it. Just because I know I am asking for it and I know I would deserve it for my ridiculous habits, especially behind the wheel.

Although the McDonoughs had not yet made time to put up a memorial, I was still able to see a lot today. I saw responses from family friends, coaches, teachers…from an entire community of people willing to take time to think, to reflect, and to appreciate. Family friends of the McDonoughs were willing and able to supply the paper with photos of Logan’s final days. My dear coworker Amy, generally cynical and scowling, put away her affront to the world in order to write the front cover stories for Logan with mere hours to talk to everyone that had known her. We were able to leave the newsroom promptly at 2pm today because the intensity of the day had made the office a bit too tense to bear.

And now, I’ve been able to reflect upon it further. I suppose I shouldn’t be wishing for tragedy to strike me, but each time these things happen, a little part of me wishes it had been me instead. Merely because the way in which people gather, in love and kindness, is inspirational and thought-provoking. Now more than I ever do I strive to be a better person. Despite the fact that I never knew Logan, I should take more pride and responsibility in myself and my actions, just as she certainly did. It only takes one time, people. One misstep.

Logan, I wish you peace and comfort. I sincerely believe we have done you justice in memoriam. I commend your parents for their wisdom and trust in science, for when organs are donated, lives are saved. You were loved and will continue to be so. Rest in peace.