Today I was rushing to meet an editing client at 2pm when L called. He said, I have bad news. He told me that our good friends' son was killed in a car accident earlier today. At first I was in minor shock, just feeling shaky and unable to process it. I knew people died in car accidents, and I knew the son, but I couldn't connect the two. Later I found the news story on the web and just keep thinking about the times I've seen this kid (who was 28). The last time was a few years ago at his wedding.
People say that when you have cancer you start worshiping at the altar of carpe diem. It's one thing to think of yourself slowly fading away; it's quite another to find out that a healthy 28-year-old was thrown out of his car when a tire blew out while he was on the exit ramp.
I'm sure that his parents, our friends, will replay the "what ifs" forever and ever.
It's amazing that we drive these machines that are so deadly. Many of us can name people who were killed in car accidents. The mother of a friend of mine was killed on the road between Austin and Houston, in 1991. Her daughter, my friend's older sister, was in the car with her. My friend A's cousins lived with their grandparents because their parents had died young in a car crash. And then one of the cousins, in his late twenties or thirties, and married, died of lymphoma. If I'm not mistaken, there's a part of Milan Kundera's novel Immortality, which I read back in the 1990s, that discusses the strangeness of the very high rate of deaths caused by automobiles. Why do we accept it?
I read once in In These Times, I think, that in Germany (and this may have been back when there was an East and West, and this was in West), conscientious objectors who refuse to pick up guns are not allowed to drive cars, because they too, are fatal weapons. I couldn't confirm this, but the (Christian) Orthodox Peace Fellowship reports, "Thus there are Orthodox priests who do not drive a car because of the danger of inadvertently causing someone’s death."
It is dangerous to drive. It's even dangerous to be around cars. I know someone who was walking downtown and was struck by an out-of-control car that roared up on the curb. She is now quadriplegic.