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To Live or Die on Highway 189 in the San Bernardino Mountains

22 Feb

On Highway 189 where at least two young church goers might have just lost their lives, I, too, have quickly become religious, making the sign of the cross as my car slid down an icy turn.  Spirituality is usually a selfish act on my part, spurred on by an uncontrollable situation I find myself in.  And this time was no different.  I remember how stunned the man driving towards me in the oncoming lane was to see I’d left my wheel, however briefly, in the hands of a higher power.  Ironically, I watched him mouth the words “Oh my god.”  I’ve lived up here long enough to know that hitting the brakes would only make things worse and that no matter how illogical  it sounds, it’s far less destructive to continue on in the pathway of the slide instead of fight it.   As it turned out the driver and I passed one another within mere inches, a grateful nod shared between us that we avoided the headache of a head on collision.

This area of the 189 is treacherous because it is a place where the sun rarely strikes.  It is where I have suddenly become late for work because a bus full of the elderly just jack-knifed shutting the route down altogether.  It is where I once spotted a pair of taillights flashing in the brush and called in what I saw to the Sheriff’s station.  Later I found out that there had been a person trapped inside and that the jaws of life had to be brought in. The woman working the desk said I might have saved a life.  But I felt more guilty than heroic because a part of me hadn’t wanted to pull over and bother hunting for bars to appear on my phone.  A part of me had nearly kept on driving.

Yesterday afternoon having come back up the mountain after visiting with a friend, I encountered two CHP squad cars obstructing the entrance to the 189.  The graphic scene of the bus accident that killed two and airlifted several others to nearby hospitals with shattered bones and internal trauma wasn’t what drew my fingers to my chest again in a real effort of prayer.  The wreckage was hidden down in a ravine.  It was the eight gleaming news vans with their extended antennas parked all around, which signaled the accident  was catastrophic.  The last time TV reporters gathered in such force it was to cover the death of a young boy who had been swept right off a picnic table, right in front of his family’s eyes, by a mudslide that buried within minutes an entire Christian camp not so far from here.

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  1. Samantha

    February 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I just saw what happened on the news about these poor teenagers from Pasadena. I don’t know why it always seems to be the religious types who wind up injured or killed.

     
  2. Mary Ann

    February 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    A great heart felt blog entry. Accidents like that really do make us realize that it would be us but for the grace of God.

     
  3. Josephina

    February 23, 2011 at 8:07 am

    This was heartbreaking. Why can’t Cal Trans keep the roads in better shape?

     
  4. Dark

    February 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for the update! By the way do you have a Twitter account, so I can get info about your blog posts there?

     
    • Paula

      February 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm

      It’s PaulasPoints ( I think). But I’ve only been on there once because I love words and didn’t like butchering them down that way. Maybe I will try it again in order to give notice of a new blog post. Thanks for the idea.

       
      • Evan

        February 24, 2011 at 9:52 am

        Damn…you sure have range as a writer. This is a sad story but I appreciate you sharing it. I will bookmark your site.

         
  5. Ray

    March 1, 2011 at 2:41 am

    I read about this awful tragedy. The news kept getting how many died wrong. I think the bus driver died and twenty-three young teens were injured and at least two like you said were critical.

     
  6. Josephina

    March 3, 2011 at 11:29 am

    This accident broke my heart, too. As a practicing Catholic, I sometimes question reasons why I pray. You made me stop and think about that.

     
  7. Jackson

    March 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Gripping blog post about religion and when and why we pray.

     
  8. Miranda

    April 17, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Informative and thoughtful article. Very sad. You could probably sell these to magazines or have your own column!