This is a guest post by my good friend Keith Walker. This is a sad and gruesome and true story that happened September of 2016.
Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I’m going to die on the way to work today.” Even without the thought, it still happens. It happened to a man today. He died in the turn lane on 19th Avenue between Greenway and Thunderbird. I don’t know his name. I don’t even know what he lookd like. By the time I got to the accident scene, he no longer had a face. I’m sure I’ll find out his name eventually, but for now I’ll just call him Eddie.
Eddie is dead.
My wife drives the same route to work every morning. A long roll from N. Phoenix down 19th Avenue to the medical campus on Thomas. It’s a dangerous route. A long stretch of it has been aptly named the “suicide lane” because the turn lane is opened up to south bound rush hour traffic in the morning and north bound traffic in the afternoon. People forget and try to make turns all the time.
The auto insurance industry is kept very busy by this corridor. Strangely, Eddie died before the suicide lane kicked in.
Eddie was a big dude. Probably five foot eight and 250 pounds. He was astride a metallic blue Harley Davidson motorcycle. He was dressed for work, but I don’t know what that means. By the time I got there, you couldn’t tell what his clothes looked like. Too much blood. He wore a half helmet instead of a full helmet. This meant the only part of his body not crushed or mangled was his skull. I don’t know what Eddie was thinking about this morning, but it wasn’t the road. He didn’t see that traffic had come to a stop right in front of him. He was about to collide with a 2007 Toyota Highlander. My wife behind the wheel.
She tried to roll him over but couldn’t. Too big. The four bystanders worried that he shouldn’t be moved at all.A Phoenix policeman appeared on the scene remarkably fast. He saw the blood, snapped on gloves and rolled Eddie over. He stared compressions. She found another pair of gloves in the squad car and tried to clear Eddie’s airway. Beneath all the blood he was the color of a bruised thunderstorm. The helmet strap had constricting his airway. They cut it away and took turns giving compressions. Eddie was so big, she had to crouch in a squat position over his chest in order to pump the heart.
She couldn’t figure out why the damage to Eddie was so catastrophic. He should have some road rash and maybe a few broken bones, but this . . . dear god. It wasn’t until later, after listening to the witnesses, that she learned what had happened to him.
Eddie never even tried his brakes. He swerved to avoid the Highlander, but didn’t make it. The front wheel of the Harley disappeared under the back bumper and tore it off. It shredded the tire and pushed the axle eight inches forward. The bike whipped around, pulled free and spun down the turn lane. Instead of going end over end, Eddie was thrown perpendicular right into oncoming traffic. A construction worker heading Northbound in his work truck ran him over. The driver had no chance to swerve. To him, it seemed like Eddie dropped out of the sky. Eddie disappeared under the front bumper, rolled and crushed three times underneath the chassis, then spat out from underneath the back bumper. That’s how he lost his face, had his internal organs crushed and found the unexpected exit from this life.
They continued the compressions for what seemed like forever. Meanwhile, the traffic continued to weave its way around the body. Four Mexican painters working in the front yard of an adjacent property took out their phones and started filming. The paramedics finally arrived and took over the process of cataloging death. More police arrived and cordoned off the scene. The interviews and forensics began.
At one point a well-dressed man wandered through the scene on foot and was almost arrested because he refused to cross to the other side of the street as instructed. Instead, he insisted on walking right through the accident scene. He was put in handcuffs, escorted away and eventually released to get to his work.
None of this mattered to Eddie. He was gone. That shade of blue had turned to black. It would be his final color. He got up this morning, got dressed, probably ate some breakfast and set out for work. Maybe he was daydreaming of a better life right before his front wheel went under the bumper. Now he was a bloodied shade of night.
It is impossible to exist by the cliche live every day as though it’s your last. Usually, it isn’t the last day. The days repeat, and as with all things repetitive, the meaning is lost. Until one day the last day does roll around. Then it’s too late. That being said, it might not be a bad idea to say the following greeting and ask the same question at every daybreak.
Good morning, Death. Will I see you today?