Tonight, as the kids and I were walking the block from our car to the Ethiopian restaurant where we were headed to celebrate Seth's birthday, I heard a screeching of tires coming up behind/beside us and, right across the street from where we stood, I saw a white SUV serve erratically into the curb lane and crash into a black SUV that was waiting at a stop sign to turn onto the same street that the white SUV and we were on. I caught it all because I'd already been looking at the black SUV, wondering if the nose of the car was maybe sticking out just a wee bit too far into the intersection (later, I saw that it wasn't). Anyway, as I looked and listened, there was a crash and a poof of smoke as the white SUV hit the black vehicle and, seconds later, the sound of more tires screeching as a third vehicle, a green sedan, crashed into the back of the white SUV, crushing the front of the green sedan. Huge crash, air bags popping, smoke rising, gas smells leaking into the air....it was freaky. The kids were panicky and I pushed them behind me as the drama continued to unfold. I started to walk them backwards in the direction of the restaurant behind us, while keeping my eyes on the accident scene, but then froze.
On the far side of the white SUV, a man jumped out of the passenger side and took off down the side street, past where the black SUV was at a stand still. Suddenly, the driver's door opened and another man, with reddish blond hair, jumped out and started running down the middle of the street right past us. Huge, desperate strides as he loped away. He didn't look scared, I remember noticing even while my brain was struggling to process the fact that he was running from the scene. He looked focused, like he knew what he was doing. Finally another door on the far side of the white SUV opened and a large man came barrelling around the front of the vehicle and jumped into the driver's seat; he had cuts on his face and looked completely inebriated. He backed the white SUV up, pushing the green sedan back into the middle of the busy road, then suddenly moved forward and swerved around the black SUV that had been the first to be hit. The white SUV took off down the road and disappeared around the corner, following the path of the red-haired man.
And then it was over. It was rather surreal. Even as the white van had started to move, people seemed incredulous that he was moving the vehicle and were telling him not to move anything...it took a good few seconds for those of us watching to click into the fact that he was actually abandoning the scene. It's somehow hard to believe that people actually do that in real life. Thankfully, the suspended moment passed and someone was able to shout out a license plate number that another person wrote down.
By this time, crowds were starting to gather and I felt a strong need to cross the street and see if everyone was ok...also, to offer my help as a witness. I ushered the kids into the restaurant, and thankfully my parents arrived just then, so I was able to go across the street and see what I could do to help.
Thankfully everyone was basically ok. The police were called, an ambulance requested, and the driver of the green sedan sank onto the sidewalk, breathing hard from being hit by the airbag - she was clearly very shaken up. The driver of the black SUV, a lovely Ethiopian woman, was also ok but shaken up - she was more concerned about the kids in her car.
The police arrived about five minutes later and I was one of the first to be asked about what I'd seen. I told them the basics, gave them my name and contact information, and then said that I would be in the restaurant across the street if they needed anything else. About fifteen minutes later, they did come for me, and I ended up filling out a formal witness statement so that I (hopefully) won't be needed again.
The kids, Matthew in particular, were pretty shaken up; we had a lovely dinner but afterwards he was scared to go outside in case the white SUV came back - this time to hit us. He asked pointed questions about it all the way home and I wouldn't be surprised if these conversations are ongoing for a number of days.
It was pretty shocking to see the whole thing happen, and to witness that people actually drive drunk, drive utterly negligently, have accidents, and then simply leave the scene of an accident that they were the cause of. I wonder if the white SUV was stolen - otherwise, why would the occupants feel that they could escape capture, given that their license plate was readily accessible? The whole scenario just seemed so wrong and a little too close for comfort. What if that white SUV had swerved the other way and had careened directly across the street to where we were standing? We would have been gone...just like that. These guys weren't kids - they were grown men, likely in their late twenties or early thirties...the one guy who drove the white SUV away looked like he might be even a bit older than that.
I can't imagine what circumstances these men have had to live to get to this point, but it must be something horrid because otherwise how do you explain away their criminal behaviour?
Fortunately, we were able to have a lovely dinner despite the nastiness of the surrounding circumstances. And thankfully everyone's ok.