Car crashes have profoundly affected me. The things that I have experienced have altered the course of my life. They changed me fundamentally as a person.
The wail of a siren snapped me out of my concentration. I looked up from my camera and saw Skamania County EMS race by. Always, my mind fills with empathy when I see the flashing lights. I can feel the urgency and tension in the air: someone needs help right away.
I didn't realize at the time that this accident would affect people that I know. I was just out enjoying a beautiful day in the Gorge shooting photos.
I know how it feels to be the one waiting for what feels like an eternity for help to reach you. I know how it feels to have people looking at you to provide help when life is on the line. I also know what it feels like to have your classmates and friends killed in an auto accident.
If you don't know how it feels, just try it on. Sit with it and wear it for a minute, notice how you feel. I think you'll find that it feels pretty heavy.
When these things happen, it's easy to judge the people involved and condemn their actions. Don't. When these things happen, it's easy to get angry and lash out. Don't.
It's easy to play Monday morning quarterback. Don't do it. We have all made mistakes and gotten away with it. Sometimes, we don't get away with it, though.
Lives were lost, and lives were changed forever on this day. You have to respect the fact that what is done is done, and that it cannot be changed, but that we can all learn something from it. We can all be a little more aware, drive a little slower, leave a little more space ahead of us.
All it takes is just a little more attention and a little more empathy, and the world gets a whole lot better.