Nothing That Grieves Us

There was a bad accident on the freeway near my condo tonight. I heard it happen, not long after 8:30pm. Strangely, there was no stereotypical squeal of brakes, just an intense kind of whoosh, then Bang. I grabbed my jacket, cell phone, keys and hurried out and across the road, where others were already peering through the fence. Many people were coming out of their homes to see.

There wasn’t much visible. The accident scene was a couple hundred yards west, where the freeway is 20 feet below the level of our homes, and there’s a hedge of thick bushes. So I didn’t go down that far. I came back inside but after a while the continuous arrival of so many vehicles with sirens drew me back out. I’ve rarely heard that many emergency vehicles in one place.

It was impossible to see anything. I walked some, got some night air, and thought about it. I knew from the CHP website that there were 4 cars involved, one overturned, the road was blocked, people were going to the hospital, and crews were coming to clean up the mess.

The CHP information is raw, a transcript of the actual radio or car computer traffic. It’s hard to understand. But I think it says something about witnesses claiming that someone did something stupid …

No. Wait. Holy crap. While I’ve been writing this post, I think I figured it out. WW, it says. SV going WW. Somebody was going the wrong way on the freeway? It says SV (southbound vehicle?) going WW appeared intentional.


You know it’s been hard not to be distracted by the escalating, multiplying disasters in Japan this week. It is heart-rending, so massive that it’s hard to get the mind to seize and grip it. Maybe that’s because there’s so much video, far more coverage than with the Indonesian tsunami. Plus, there’s the multiple nuclear meltdown to ponder. In any case, it’s distracting. I’ve been using reading and writing time to watch Anderson Cooper.

As I was walking home, bearing witness to the fact that people were dragging small children with them to peer down from the roadside, and all the lights and still more sirens coming after half an hour, I thought this:

For the people in those 4 cars down there, this is just as sure a disaster than any that gets covered for days on end on CNN. Lives are being changed tonight, possibly ended. Here on the US 101, downhill from a flower field and uphill from a beach where baby seals sleep with their mothers, there’s calamity that has hit the top of the Richter Scale for those involved. And I remembered this quote from Mark Twain:

“Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.”

3 thoughts on “Nothing That Grieves Us

  1. To be honest, I can't relate too well. I've never invested that deeply in the fortunes of a group of people whom I don't know. Nor have I experienced a level of tentative success which might lead me to hope for such external validation of my talents. In the first case, it's too hard to personally affect the outcome. In the 2nd, too much the opposite.

  2. Hmm. Food for thought. One's favorite basketball team losing in an early round of the NCAA tournament–to an avid fan, cataclysmic. Or not being chosen in an "American Idol" contest. Where would such events fit in the formula?

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