Today started like any other Friday, but it turned in to quite a harrowing adventure.
Tate and I got up around 6 to have breakfast and get him ready and out the door to meet the bus by 7-ish. We had our usual morning struggles with remembering where we put the backpack, or the fact that we need to wear pants to school, but we made it on time.
I started working in the basement. I work in downtown Chicago, which is about 100 miles from home and my employer has given me the privilege of working from home a couple days a week to ease the burden of commuting in and out of the city every day. I dialed in to the squawk line at work and started working away.
Megan and Jasper were up by then and getting breakfast. I split my time between the basement and helping Jasper finish breakfast. After making a spectacular mess, as usual, I sent him upstairs to get ready for school. I cleaned up a bit and headed back to work.
A bit later, they were heading out. I sent them off and went back to the basement to prepare for my morning barrage of conference calls and meetings.
Shortly before 9am I got a call from Megan. She said that she had been in an accident. At first I thought that it was just another fender rub or mirror slap, but I could hear in the tone of her voice that there was something more to it this time. I asked if she was OK and she said that the car was totaled and that I needed to come right away.
I didn’t need to hear much more to get moving. I mumbled something about my wife being in a car accident to my team on the speakerphone and rushed right out the door.
I pulled up the Highlander’s GPS tracker on my phone and it told me that I would find them on Highway 251 near the Sinissippi Park in Rockford. I bolted out of my garage without letting my car warm up at all. My car didn’t appreciate this as it shifted hard and growled while I pressed it to move faster than I had ever asked it to drive before. (Not that I was going all that fast, but Subaru drivers have a different understanding of corners than the typical driver.)
When Megan called me, I had asked if she was OK, but she hadn’t told me. So, sitting at a stop light in Rockford, waiting very impatiently, I sent a message asking if she and Jasper were OK. I had no idea if they were being airlifted to a hospital or trapped in the car or worse. My imagination was not being kind to me.
She didn’t reply for a long time and I impatiently drove her route into work, waiting to hear back. Finally, when I was nearly there, I heard back that they were alright. I started to calm down, but then I could see traffic backing up and the flicker of police lights over the hill in front of me. I knew that they were on the other end of that traffic jam.
Highway 251 is a divided 6 lane highway at this point and all three lanes going my direction were backed up at least half a mile. I did the thing that we’re always told not to do… I drove on the shoulder. And as I came over the hill, this is what I saw:
That’s the underside of our Duncan, our faithful Toyota Highlander of 5 years and tens of thousands of miles. I admit that I swore out loud when I saw this. Those of you who know me know that this doesn’t happen very often. But this did it.
Happily, I also saw Megan standing next to the rescue truck with Jasper up in the seat of the truck enjoying the fire-fighter’s hospitality.
Both Megan and Jasper were just fine. With the help and kindness of some quick acting strangers, they climbed out the back of the Highlander without even a scratch on either one of them.
Duncan is toast. We’ll have to see what the insurance adjusters will officially rule, but I think they’d be insane to want to attempt to repair it. It’s torn up on the underside. The front is smashed in and most of the passenger side outer material is left as a scrape on the side of Highway 251.
We hung around a bit for the wrecker to come and take the Highlander away. They had to pull it back on its wheels to load it onto the truck. It’s pretty pathetic looking:
We are grateful to this car for providing such a safe cocoon for our family when the worst happened. Toyota did a great job engineering this vehicle and its many safety features. You will be missed, Duncan.
I will leave the telling of the accident itself to Megan, should she choose to write a full account of it. The bottom line is everyone in both cars made it through unharmed.
To those strangers: you have my deepest thanks for deciding to act and to care for strangers on the road. Thank you for the hat and blanket that kept Jasper warm while they waited for the police and rescue squad to arrive. Thank you for taking care of my family while I could not.