Getting there, revisited

A photo taken by CMPD officer after the accident June 12, 2008.
A photo taken by CMPD officer after the accident June 12, 2008. Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department

To read Tammy’s first post about an ordinary day that turned tragic, read “The beginning revisited” here.

Last spring I attended an area high school’s volunteer appreciation luncheon. I had been a guest at several of them previously, so I knew what to expect...mostly…

I was extremely surprised when an Oscar-like trophy for ‘best supporting actress’ was presented to a mom seated at the table beside me. The week before prom, this school staged a re-enactment of a motor vehicle accident for the student body to witness; she played the role of the mom running up on the scene of her child’s car crash.

I’m sure it was a worthy performance; it is the stuff of every parent’s nightmares. I have no doubt she gave it her best effort, subject to the limits of her imagination.

I sat frozen in my seat, with a (hopefully) neutral smile pasted on my face…

I’m pretty sure no one present realized I had actually done the very thing they were jokingly giving an award for. Had they been aware, it would have never happened.

No offense to her, but there is no way she came close to what it was really like: the panic, the desperation, the hysteria…the unspeakable fear…

I lived it and the words I wrote seven years ago don’t do it justice…

How do we get out of here? Our ability to make mindless decisions evaporated in an instant. We wasted what seemed to be an eternity trying to figure out how to get out of the parking lot, and which route would be best (meaning fastest) to get us to Pineville, to our son. Finally, I said “Lawyers to 485”, and we were off.

I started demanding answers: “What happened?” “Who called?” “Where is he in Pineville?” John simply said, “Brad called, all I know is what I told you-he’s been in a wreck, he’s unconscious and bleeding in Pineville.” Brad was Brian’s friend, the one with whom he had been working that morning.

To those of you heading west on I-485 that day, I’m sorry. We were overly aggressive and reckless, driven by a desperation born of uncertainty and failure. Uncertain of the future we were driving toward, and burdened with the knowledge that we had failed our son. Instinct had taken over; the need to reach him as soon as possible eclipsed all rational thought processes. We were going around anyone and anything in our way.

I began dialing as John was driving. I spoke with a calm that I did not own, forcing myself to make the brief but necessary calls, trying to organize my other children and responsibilities…

Our daughter Beth- “Where are you? Please stay calm…”

Our friend Sue- “Please pray for him and call the prayer chain…”

Our daughter Grace- “Gracie, I need you to wake up…”

Our friend Sara Anne- “Are you still at Pine Lake? I need a huge favor…”

My aunt Judy- “Please pray for Brian…call the church…”

My mom- “Brian…pray and call the church… I’ll call you back…”

Our employer George- “Please help Beth…I won’t be working this afternoon...”

Our co-worker Sabrina- “Take care of Beth…I don’t need to worry about her too.”

As we passed the Rea Road exit, I couldn’t breathe. I felt as if my heart had been wrenched from my chest. I was suffocating, crushed under the weight of my own hopelessness. The overwhelming agony of loss was personified in me right then, dry-heaving sobs of disbelief rolling out of me, unable to control the emotion, denying awareness of what my soul knew to be true.

It seemed as if a hundred years had passed since we left Mint Hill; we finally made it to the Pineville exit. Once again, we were paralyzed, trying to figure out how to get across the traffic. “John, roll down the window & ask them to let you over.” We barely made the light, turning left onto Park Road. From where we were stopped, I could see the flashing lights on Highway 51.

At this point, we were still unsure of where Brian was, so I did the only thing I could. I decided to run down there, literally. There was no difficulty in making this decision; one of us needed to be wherever Brian was, period. John was driving, so he went on to the hospital and I began running toward my child (maybe), acting out this scene from a nightmare.

I am too slow, fighting, pushing ahead to the horror (rather than away from it), unable to get to where I must be. My Rainbows are flopping (do I really need these shoes), my purse flapping (why didn’t I leave it in the car), wheezing (not now-no time for inhaler), pounding on the hoods of cars to let me pass (don’t you all understand, that’s my child up there), not moving fast enough (when did I get so SLOW), I cannot breathe, don’t you dare stop running, got to keep going, I’ve got to get up there, NOW!!!! I vaguely recall a lady waiting in the stopped traffic, offering to drive me wherever I needed to go. I yelled “That’s my son up there; I’m trying to get to my son.” I finally reached the police car that had the northbound traffic blocked; she starting walking towards me as I screamed again “That’s my son, I’ve got to get to my son!”

As soon as the words flew out of my mouth, I knew the officer had me pegged as hysterical and frantic; that was certainly an accurate assessment. A car heading back toward Pineville pulled up beside me right then, the passenger window buzzed down. It was Brad’s father, Jeff. “Get in the car; Brad’s on the phone, they have Brian at the ER up the road.” He told the officer he was taking me there. A total of 25 minutes had passed since receiving Brad’s telephone call.

*As we approach the 7th anniversary on June 12th, we continue to give away pink & black silicone bracelets. To request one or many, please email the quantity desired and your mailing address to