She still got excited every time she saw it. Her car. It was her car.
She got into her car, started it up and turned on the radio. Then she headed out for school.
Rush hour traffic is never fun, but here in the Rocket City it never gets heavy enough to slow anyone down much. Ironically, it never goes fast enough for anyone to really get moving either.
She was driving along, down the neighborhood streets and out onto the highway. It was the same route she traveled every day on her way to school. It never changed. It was never exciting. Except that now she was the driver, not a passenger, and for her that much was exciting.
"Ah, sweet freedom!"
She probably didn't even notice the truck as she passed through the intersection. She had the right of way anyway, so why should it matter?
But it did matter because the truck didn't stop.
They collided. She came to a violent and abrupt stop. An airbag appeared from seemingly out of nowhere and punched her in the face. Her shiny little car crumpled around her as shiny little cars are prone to do. Adrenaline flooded her bloodstream. Her heart was pounding. Her breathing was rapid and heavy. The sounds of screeching tires followed by an enormous BANG and a shower of glass echoed in her mind. Did that really just happen?
She looked around her. She had hit a large tanker truck. They were both stopped now in the middle of the intersection. All the other cars were stopped, blocked by the two vehicles. Everyone was looking at her.
It was then that she realized she had a problem. When she tried to get out of her car she found that couldn't. It was smashed and ruined around her. The dash was right on top of her and the air bag was deflated and sagging on her lap. Her seatbelt was locked up tight and would not let go. Her entire lower half was pinned and pressed underneath the dash. She was stuck there in her car.
"Oh no, oh no, tell me this isn't really happening. I can NOT believe this! I didn't even do anything WRONG!" She began searching for her cell phone. It was right there in her console inside her purse. "Oh, my parents are going to KILL me!" She dialed the number for home.
"Hi. I wasn't expecting to hear from you so soon. Is everything alright?" asked a familiar voice on the other end.
"Mom? I've been in an accident. I'm OK, but my car is smashed. I think I hit a truck. It wasn't my fault, I swear. He must have run the stop sign."
"Oh my God! Are you OK?"
"Yes, I think so. I just can't get out of the car. I'm stuck."
"Oh my God! Your father hasn't left for work yet. I'm going to get him and we'll be right there, OK?"
"OK. Thanks Mom."
It didn't take long for Mom and Dad to arrive. It wasn't that far from home to school, or much of anywhere else in this city. They pulled their car to the side of the road and walked over to their daughter.
"Are you all right, Honey?"
"Yes, but I can't get out, Dad. See? The dash is on top of my legs and my seatbelt is stuck, too. My feet are stuck under there."
"OK, the important thing is that you're all right. We'll get the firemen to come and they'll get you out."
She felt like crying, but she didn't. "It wasn't my fault, Dad."
"I know. I can see that he ran the sign. Hang on, I'm calling for the firemen."
Everything was going to be OK. His angel was fine. The car was a total wreck, but his beautiful 16-year-old daughter was OK and that was the most important thing.
"911. What's your emergency?"
"Hello? Yes, I'm at the intersection of highway 150 and Smith Road and my daughter has been in an accident."
"Is anyone hurt?"
"No, but she's trapped in the car and can't get out. She needs someone to cut her out of the car."
"Alright sir, but no one is injured? Does anyone need a paramedic?"
"No, she's fine. Everyone is fine. We just need the police and someone to cut the car open and get my daughter out."
"Alright sir, there is a firetruck and a police unit already on the way. It'll be just a few minutes."
"Thank you. Thank you very much!"
Time passed. It seemed like an eternity. No police. No firemen. And everyone in all their cars just staring. The truck and wrecked car were all over the intersection. Getting around the accident scene was extremely difficult and traffic was backed up all the way down the road in both directions.
Meanwhile, something was leaking. Something was getting hot. Something was beginning to smolder.
And then it happened.
The car was on fire!
"Oh my God, honey, her car is on fire! Look!" she said, pointing to the smoke coming from out of the young girl's car.
"Oh my God! Oh my God!"
Everyone was thinking it. Everyone in their cars in traffic, jammed bumper to bumper at a complete stop, sitting and gawking at the mangled scene was saying it to themselves in unison. "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh no!"
The smoke turned to fire. Some people sat in their cars, covering their mouths in shock. Some jumped into action, leaping out of their cars and running to the now burning car.
Does anyone have a fire extinguisher? Does anyone have any tools? Can't anyone do something?!
It didn't matter how many people there were. It didn't matter how badly they wanted to pull the 16-year-old girl from out of her now burning car. She was stuck tight. They had no tools. They had no fire extinguishers. They had only the panic of a raging fire and a desperate desire to save a 16-year-old girl from a horrible death.
But they could not.
There, in front of both of her parents, this 16-year-old girl burned to death while trapped inside her car. And there was nothing anyone could do.
This happened this morning sometime between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. People came into work late, talking about the horrible wreck and the raging fire. Many people said how they had to turn around and find another way to get to their jobs because the police had blocked off the entire highway.
Most people didn't realize that a teenage girl had died right there within sight of them. They knew only that something horrible had happened and that someone's car was burning. Some knew that a person had died, but most had no idea who.
Later that day word began to spread. It was the daughter of someone we all know. It was the child of someone we see every day. Some people asked that we all pray for the family.
I sat there, thinking about this nightmare and wondering how in the world does a parent recover from something like this? I cannot imagine it. I cannot think of a single thing more horrible than watching your own child die this way and not being able to save them.
This is really all that I know to say.