Oh Cath, my first memory of the scene is the bus. Shimmering in the night rain and the flashing blue lights the front window was a starred mass of broken glass. I didn’t want to follow where that thought was taking me. How could someone walk away from damage like that?
When you see your child, a little pile a black rags in the road, surrounded by huddled people, there are no words to describe it. I didn’t let myself think. I walked over and knelt by her head brushing the rain wet hair out of her face. I didn’t have time to wonder what I would see.
She cried when she saw me. ‘I’m sorry Mum,’ were her first words. My instinct, in a crisis is to search for humour. ANY humour. I asked her what she was doing arguing with a bus? And she grimaced but smiled nonetheless. Her hair, matted with sand and blood and rain spread out across the road and she started to shiver again.
‘I want Lisa,’ she whispered. Her sister.
‘I’ll call her in a minute,’ I said. ‘Shall I call your dad?’
‘No, no, no, no. Don’t call him,’ she was panicked at the thought and I wondered where that was coming from.
‘Okay,’ I soothed. ‘I wont.’
‘Cleator’s waiting for me,’ she said. A friend that she was due to meet for a bite to eat.
‘I’ll call him,’ I said.
‘You can’t,’ she said, starting cry again. ‘He hasn’t got a phone.’
Funny how you get hung on a little thing but we both worried and worried about Cleator sitting there in Mcdonalds, cursing her for being so late, never dreaming of the truth. Maybe our fixation with him being upset was easier than worrying about what was going on.
I could hear whispers from all around. ‘You should see her leg.’ I didn’t want to. I didn’t even want to think about it. It was hidden under a pile of coats and I firmly wanted it to stay that way until people who knew about these things could fix her.
Where was the ambulance? I couldn’t even hear a siren in the distance but blue lights were flashing everywhere. I did remember thinking, as we arrived that thank God we lived where we did and emergency help was seldom far away. How wrong I was.
For the first time I looked at the people huddled on either side of Sarah. On Sarah’s right, a small round woman sat on her knees. So calm, holding Sarah still. Her name was Sue. I still don’t know any more than that but I so wish I could thank her. I glanced to my left and to my surprise saw someone I recognised. Mrs Pate. Sarah’s primary school teacher.
She’d seen the accident happen. watched it unfold in that slow motion way. The police man told me later that she’d seen it happen as she sat in her car. Saw the child, saw the bus and screamed inside her head, ‘Look out!!’ Too far away to ever, ever be heard. The horror inside her as she raced to the scene. And then, to her shame but mind numbing relief she realised that the crumpled shape in the road wasn’t her daughter like she’d first thought.
As we sat there in the rain, icy water soaking us all, I felt the teacher shaking like a whippet and she kept crying out for the ambulance. Part of me wished she’d shut up. I wasn’t stupid and nor was Sarah. I knew she must have awful injuries but I didn’t want her frightened and time seems so distorted in moments like this. Each time the teacher yelled for the ambulance in her fear ridden voice it reminded Sarah that it was taking forever and that it was needed.
I heard more people around us whispering about her leg. I heard a policeman mutter than she might lose it. I didn’t want to think about it and felt this sort of ineffectual anger that they were talking about it in front of her. If you don’t acknowledge it, it might not be happening.
I saw a lad both Sarah and I worked with and I got to my feet. ‘Rohan,’ I said, ‘please tell work we wont be in tomorrow.’ I don’t know why that occurred to me to say. Cath, my mind seemed to be working on a thousand different levels.
‘I was on the bus,’ he said, eyes wide with horror as he raised his gaze to mine. ‘You should see her leg.’