It was quite a thing, approaching that blaze of blue along the top road. From a distance it was just one long, flickering necklace of fuss, but close up, when we’d driven through the cordon, it was easier to make out what was what. Fire, police, ambulance. It was a big deal, that night, a serious two car smash. Make ambulances five. We were the fifth.
You can tell from the shine on everything it’d just stopped raining. And that time of night, winter, the sky open and black and full of stars. I don’t remember feeling colder.
Most of the work had already been done. See those blue lights, way off there in the distance? That was the last of the kids from the first car getting away.
That’s our patient, the one with his arms outstretched. He’s got a phone in his right hand. He’d just finished ringing his family. When he saw us coming towards him he put out both his arms like that, like he was at a church meeting or something and felt the Spirit. I don’t doubt he felt touched by God out there on that freezing black road. I mean, he wasn’t even wearing a seatbelt. How’s that possible? Two fatals in the other car. You can just see it, there, that mess of metal through the railings. Some of that’s where the fire truck cut the car up to get to them, but still, you can see what a hit it took.
And here’s our guy, standing in the middle of it all with his arms outstretched, not a mark on him.
He walked onto the ambulance. We lay him down and bundled him up, of course. But he really did seem fine. Started shivering like crazy once he was on the trolley, rattling away beneath the blankets. And all the time he was shivering he was still smiling, broad and wide, like he wanted to show whoever it was who’d spared his life that he appreciated the miracle of it, that he was happy, madly happy to be alive.
‘They spun out coming the other way’ he said, or something like. ‘I didn’t have a chance. I prayed to God – not out loud, but deep down in my heart. I closed my eyes and prepared myself to be dead. But when I opened them again I was not dead. And I will see my family again. I will see my children and my father again. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.’
And frankly? Looking at all that mess? Neither could we.