"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." - Blanche DuBois, "Streetcar Named Desire," by Tennessee Williams.
Tell me about it.
There are so many friends that I need to thank, but today I'm thinking about the 'strangers' - strangers to me, anyway.
I freely acknowledge and admit this is self-indulgent. I don't mean for this to sound like it's all about me. But I don't know what MG is feeling or thinking. And I am self-centered. I'll probably write about that more later. I admit it bothers me, that I do feel guilty, but I guess I don't know how to think about this except in terms of 'what do I do next?'
At the time of MG's wreck, sometime around 5:30 Saturday morning, strangers travelling up Highway 280 stopped and called police. They stopped and re-directed traffic around the car she was trapped in, because she was facing the wrong way in the far left lane, at a critical point in what is essentially a blind curve heading west/north on 280. Everyone in Birmingham knows what 280 traffic is like; it's either a parking lot during the week, or it becomes Talladega International Speedway when traffic is light. It would have been nothing for someone to come around that curve and smashed the car - with MG inside it - again, and who knows how that would have compounded an already horrible situation with another injury?
People do care. They don't stand by while someone is in trouble. Some of those 'strangers' undoubtedly risked their lives to protect MG until police and emergency personnel could get there.
We have all gained an appreciation for EMP's and police, particularly since we saw what they do played out in horrific real time on 9/11. But I saw real concern, real compassion, real care in the people of the Mountain Brook Police Department. We laughingly call Mountain Brook "the tiny kingdom'' because it so often comes across as presumptuous and arrogant and isolated from the rest of the Birmingham metro area and the state. Sometimes that description is deserved. Most of the time, it's said with loving affection.
But the members of the MBPD I dealt with - from the policeman who came to my door (and maybe he was actually Vestavia Hills police, I didn't really bother to check) - have my and my families' heartfelt appreciation. The police officer who came to find me in the hospital directly from the scene of the accident told me every person on the scene was concerned and wanted to know how MG was doing.
When Tracy Hipps went to the police department to try to recover MG's purse, he said even the dispatcher told him they were praying for MG, that everyone he talked to knew what happened and cared.
Tracy told me a detective would be calling me, but no - shortly after the detective showed up on the ninth floor of UAB to personally see how things were going, to let me know what was going on with the report, etc. I honestly felt like he took this personally, sick that it happened and determined to see the investigation through.
My oldest, The Heir, Roeck-Dawg, the Knob - he's had a difficult year as a Knob at The Citadel. Of course, he knew that going in. Still, there is often a wide gap between expectation and reality, and the reality was much more difficult because his expectation was that the Knob year of the Fourth Class System would be mostly physically demanding and instead it was incredibly mentally challenging.
At times, he hated it. (I think any Knob would say the same thing). At times, he felt everything the Citadel said it stood for was a lie. He once told me "these guys will not be my life-long friends." We talked about transferring, but I insisted - and he was determined - to finish the Knob year.
Last weekend was Rec Day - "Recognition Day" - when the Fourth Class system ends and the Knobs become accepted members of the Corp of Cadets.
On Saturday, when Roeck got the news, he was fine on the phone with me. I told him there was no reason to come home, but if he wanted to we'd work it out. After he got off the phone, he told me he was pretty shaken. The guys in his company he is closest to gathered around him and protected him. He was supposed to eat breakfast (mess) with some guys, but when he got down to the mess hall he broke down again. One of his buddies literally picked him up and said, "I'm getting you the f... out of here. They're not going to see you like this."
I'm not sure of Lt. Alexander Morgan's full rank, but he's a senior and company commander or some such. Roecker told him what was going on, and Mr. Morgan told said, "You're going home if I have to drive you to Birmingham myself. I'll talk to your professors. You're going."
I'm not sure how Roecker got to the airport, got on a plane, but he got home.
And he told me, "Now I understand what the Corp is about, the bond and the camaraderie. These are the guys I'll be friends with for the rest of my life."
I wrote a note to Mr. Morgan to thank him and he said, "I'm just paying it forward. This is what we do. I've had it done for me, and I do it for the younger guys, and they'll do it for someone else."
At The Citadel, they have this thing about "wearing the ring." Roecker is a long way from that, but he sees what it means.
And if you're at The Citadel and read this, don't hold this against Roecker. He is going back to The Citadel.
I could go on and on. But like Blanche, the truth is I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
We live in a fallen world, a world that is crying out for redemption. But every day, we see a little of "Eden" - that place where we were created to live in perfect relationship to God, to each other, to nature - burst through our fallen personalities.