By Nash Dunn
O-N-E Staff Writer
I knew I was close when I heard the sirens.
Turning around a sharp left bend on Mt. Olive Church Road, I saw a mirage of red, white and blue flashing lights. I pulled off the right shoulder of the road about 100 yards behind two fire engines, a rescue apparatus and an ambulance. The call that went across the police scanner said the wreck was a “possible pin-in,” but I did not think this many units would have dispatched for a single-car accident.
“It must be pretty bad,” I thought.
I looked around the car frantically trying to grab all my things. It only takes a few seconds to clutch my camera, notebook and pen, but I always feel like I’m going to miss something if I don’t hurry up.
Walking uphill toward the accident, a N.C. State Trooper spotted me. He quickly stomped down the old, curvy street in my direction, intercepting my path toward the accident. He wore the stereotypical trooper get-up — a neatly pressed and starched shirt that fell somewhere between light gray and beige, unwrinkled slacks with an eye-catching black streak down the sides, and the recognizable inflexible hat with a circumnavigable bill.
“Who are you with?” he said.
I was kind of taken back. Usually, I have to plead with the troopers at an accident scene for an interview. Something had to be up. “I’m with The Observer News Enterprise right down the way here.”
“OK,” he said. “Well, look, I don’t care if you go up there and take pictures, but there’s a minor in that car. She’s 16.”
“So, they are working to get her out of the car now,” he said. “As soon as she’s headed to the hospital you can go do whatever you want. But just give us some time.”
I nodded again. “I understand.”
He stuck out his hand for me to shake, which I thought was really strange, and started to walk away.
“So, is that the car there?” I pointed toward a white Dodge Neon sitting slightly off the embankment up ahead.
He turned toward me and then looked back up the road. “No, you can’t see her car from here.”
“Is she pinned in?” I asked.
“Anyone else in the car?” I continued.
He shook his head. “No.”
The anonymous trooper walked back toward the accident, and I was left to wait. I could see firefighters and rescue crews from Claremont and Bandys working to cut pieces of the car away to access the girl. The buzz of power tools was buffered by the hum of the fire trucks. The rescue crews seemed to be constantly moving. Everyone had a job. No one stood around.
By and by, the crews freed the girl from the car. Three firefighters held up pink, blue and green towels to prevent me from taking pictures.
I didn’t even take off the lens cap to my camera. I didn’t want to take the photos, I thought. She was a minor. An injured and obviously exposed minor. But at the same time, this is my job. I have to take the pictures.
Screeching tires to my rear interrupted my internal dilemma. I turned around and saw smoke from an old Pontiac’s burnt tires floating near where I originally parked my car. The door to the old Firebird swung open and a young man burst from the vehicle, running uphill toward the accident. His eyes were raging and wild as he bolted past me and approached the firefighters near the scene. The trooper stopped him.
“Hold up, son,” the trooper said as he stuck out his arms and grasped the boy’s shoulders.
“Man, that’s my sister!” The boy was enraged, throwing his arms about wildly and pushing the trooper and other firefighters back that approached him. “Let me see her!”
The mild skirmish continued until the boy realized he was not getting past the first responders. “You can see her at the hospital,” the trooper screamed. “Now go!”
“Great!” The boy threw his hands on top of his head and stormed off. He shouted expletives at them and stomped back down the street. “Have fun Bandys Fire Department! Thanks a lot!”
He looked into my eyes as he walked by. I was waiting for him to shout something wild in my direction, but he didn’t. Not 30 seconds later, his tires squealed again, he was gone.
When I turned back toward the accident, the trooper was at my side. He looked at me and smiled.
“Yeah, we have to deal with that stuff sometimes, too,” he said. “It’s tough.”
Work is one thing, and family is another. Doing your job is a required duty, but showing respect is a part of life. The trooper is right — it is tough.
Nash Dunn is a reporter and columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the Wednesday edition of The O-N-E. Reach Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org .