The sky was gray. The road was open. And I was headed toward home. I started my journey at 2:20, and skipped my typical hourly diet coke break in favor of hitting the connector (aka a small taste of purgatory) before the mad rush of the suburbs would begin. If I was careful to keep it at ten over the posted limit and didn't stop for gas, I hoped for an ETA of about 4:50.
Okay, so my traffic-free plan was optimistic at best, but I was focused on the prize. Even when the swollen clouds let loose, I dodged the hazard lights of my fellow road-warriors and only slowed enough to give the windshield wipers a fighting chance.
The rain eased, the semis freed up the fast lane, and I was truckin'.
Until I was within a stone's throw of the perimeter.
Hundreds of tail lights laughed at my timetable. A few minutes later, a fire truck lumbered through traffic. An ambulance followed behind it.
To be honest, I didn't think much of it at the time. Clearly there had been an accident, and it was far enough ahead that I couldn't see where the emergency crew stopped.
For at least thirty minutes I dutifully avoided eye-contact with other drivers as we all inched forward.
And then I reached the site. It was a mess. I shot a prayer up for the injured, and continued to merge over to get around the coned off area. As a rule I try not to rubberneck (I wouldn't want anyone to rubberneck if I was in that situation), but the wreck was bad.
And all around it, in the lingering drizzle, were the firemen and rescue crew. The ambulance had gone, which I think is a good sign. They only have to hurry for people who have a shot. But I knew, as my car slipped past, the men working the scene would be there for a while yet. My workday was almost done, but theirs was still young and screaming.
I am a huge fan of public servants, and it's not because of the uniform...okay, not just because of the uniform. Anyone who is willing to take a job that puts them at risk in order to help others is a hero in my book. They put in long hours and work hard, and I'm not sure how often they get thanked. But that isn't why the do it. Firemen, policemen, EMTs, and military personnel see hard things and yet they have the drive to continue to do their part to improve the world in which we live.
So, today I'm just thankful to them and for them. May God bless and protect the crew on I-20 and all the public servants and service-people the world over.