The traffic was particularly heavy on my drive to work that Tuesday morning and I wondered why. I got my answer when the news came on the radio. They had closed the highway because of an accident and were re-routing everyone. I was nearly late for work. When I arrived, I mentioned why I was late and a few of us sat around the table discussing the fact that a woman ran into a transport truck, as the news had reported. Since it had happened several hours before at 4:10 a.m. I figured the woman was either drunk or had fallen asleep at the wheel.
My morning was going as usual. I work in a high school as an Educational Assitant and was in my second period when my department head came in and asked me to step out of the gym class for a minute. This happens fairly frequently because he wants to discuss something confidential or we don’t want to distract the teacher. I was curious but not alarmed.
Instead of stopping just outside the door, he continued walking out of the gym area and down the hall. He was making idle chit chat with me as we walked toward the office. This is when I began to become a little uncomfortable. The principal was standing in front of his office and held his arm out for me to enter. No one wants to be called into the principal’s office! I wondered what I had done wrong.
When I opened the door, two police officers were there. Then I saw my husband, Greg sitting at the table and immediately I knew it was about Justine. Greg stood up and came toward me, hugging me.
“It’s Justine!” he sobbed.
“I know that! What, this time?” I thought.
He continued but I honestly don’t know the words he used. You’d think something like that would be imbedded in your mind forever. The police officers looked stunned and very uncomfortable. The rest is a blur.
Walking down the hall to get my coat and purse.
Telling a few coworkers along the way when they came up to me, seeing my devastation.
The secretary running up behind me to hug me and walk with me. She was also a mother who lost an adult child recently.
Telling my coworker who I worked most closely with. She looked horrified and hugged me tight.
Grabbing my belongings and making the trek back up the halls of a high school.
Greg wanted to go to his older brother and sister-in-law’s house. The police officers offered to drive but we wanted to go ourselves. We arrived at their place and blurted out why we were there. Greg called our families. Then we drove home. Our families began arriving with food and flowers. Neighbours and friends dropped over. Justine’s friends came. The house was full of people. It’s all very foggy.
We watched the news. We found that the accident that had made me late that morning was Justine’s. She had not been drunk, fallen asleep or driven into a transport truck as was first reported on the radio. She had been driving home from her night shift. She was going a little fast, not wearing her seatbelt, and a transport truck (likely) clipped her front tire when he was changing lanes. I say “likely” because the investigating officer isn’t even sure, but he thinks that’s what happened. Justine always wore her seatbelt but for some reason, not that time.
I’m sure I cried but I don’t remember. I was numb. I was a zombie. I do remember sitting on the couch after everyone left and posting on Facebook, just after midnight.
Then I went to bed and I cried myself to sleep.