Monday, July 9, 2012

Caution: Road Out Ahead

Years ago I used to live in Connecticut.  For those of you familiar with the highway linking New York to Connecticut, you will surely remember the I-95 Mianus River Bridge tragedy.  In 1983, a 100-foot section of roadway collapsed into the River below due to aging infrastructure and lack of proper oversight.  Early one morning around 1:30 a.m., the neglected and rusted underpinnings simply gave way and the roadway fell leaving a “bridge to nowhere” straight into the River. 

Apparently, some astute drivers were able to recognize the road hazard up ahead while others, completely oblivious to their coming destruction, simply continued to speed along.  Little did they know that their vehicle was about to become a flying projectile careening into the night air and crashing down into the river below.  I think the unique horror of the story gripped the public’s imagination, as this was on the news for quite some time.    

There were several accounts of both heroism and heartbreak the next day in the news after the event.  However, a particular story still remains lodged in my memory forever.  One driver, who was able to safely stop his vehicle before plunging over the edge, got out of his car and started frantically jumping up and down to alert the other motorists of the upcoming danger.  Many, thankfully, slowed down and asked the very agitated man what the problem was. 
“Did he need assistance”? “Was he out of gas”?
Even those who probably just thought he was crazy, still slowed down out of curiosity.  Just this small amount of caution was enough to save their lives. 

According to eyewitnesses, one car with a passenger merely glanced at the man yelling to get their attention and casually flipped him the finger.  A few seconds later they were airborne and on their way to a tragic death. 

I always wonder to this day what went through their minds during those last seconds on earth.  They must have rapidly comprehended that they had made a horrible judgement call.  Their flippant (excuse the pun) attitude had caused them to disregard an urgent message designed to save them from impending doom.  I expect they must have had a 5 or 10 second revelation that went from arrogance and casual disregard, to slight alarm, then abject terror relatively quickly.  At some point, the realization must have dawned on them that it was too late to apply any preventative measures or corrections.  Then nothing but blackness and destruction. 

Today in the United States, Americans are those motorists driving along the highway.  Many, many respected economists, authors, clergy, TV hosts, radio personalities, public servants, friends and neighbors are frantically jumping up and down trying to get your attention. 

STOP, STOP, STOP—for God’s sake—turn around!

Please America, don’t just “flip us the bird” and step on the gas. 

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