My corporal, who happens to be one of my best friends, was working an accident on the shoulder of the interstate the other day.
Another dear friend and co-worker of mine was working another accident about 50 yards north of my corporal in the emergency lane.
I was patrolling the west side of the county. It was around 5 a.m. Hour number 11 of a 12-hour shift.
I knew from the radio traffic between my corporal and my buddy they were in a bit of a pickle. They were on either side of the northbound lane working separate accidents.
I personally hate being dispatched to anything on the interstate. People don’t slow down, and they don’t move over.
I can’t count the number of “burglary in progress” calls I’ve been dispatched to. I’ve responded to fights in progress, scenes with gunshot victims. I once assisted with a traffic stop that brought one of “Alabama’s Most Wanted” into custody.
I would choose any of those calls again over responding to anything on the interstate. I am more afraid of my job leading me to meeting my maker from being hit by a car than any other type of call.
People do not slow down or move over for blue lights. Or red lights for that matter.
I have been on some hot scenes with my corporal. When I say “hot scene” I mean high stress. My corporal is calm, cool and collected in the most stressful of situations. I like to think we all are. But I know he is.
When I heard him come over the radio and say, “090, are you OK?,” I knew something was wrong. The tone is his voice told me that. I have heard his voice a thousand times on the radio, on every type of emergency you can imagine. This time he sounded different.
090 didn’t answer. I have heard different phrases about silence being deafening my whole life, but in this second I fully understood it.
I heard my corporal key up the radio again. He said “I need any available units to be en route, we have had a bad accident, 090, are you ok?”
I was already en route. I was en route from the second I heard him key up the radio the first time. I may have cancelled myself before I got there. But I was getting en route until we knew further. Until we heard 090 answer that he was ok.
I have been scared a hundred times on my job. But I don’t think I have ever been more afraid than I was that morning, in those seconds when 090 wasn’t answering his radio.
My corporal was sprinting up the interstate, dodging traffic four lanes of traffic, to get to 090. I know now, 090 wasn’t answering his radio because he – and the two firefighters he was standing beside – were running away from the collision that had just happened a few feet from where they were standing.
I’m not a hugging type man. You can ask anyone who has ever tried to hug me. I make it awkward. I somehow tend to foul up most handshakes for that matter. Hugs are way out of my league.
But as God is my witness, and my body-worn camera will confirm, as soon as I set my eyes on 090 that morning on the interstate I hugged him.
I’m sure I made it awkward. That’s my style. But I hugged him nonetheless.
Slow down. Move over. Please. Wherever you are going is going to be there when you get there. No one wakes up in the morning and plans to have an accident in order to inconvenience your commute.
Toby Nix is a local writer, guitarist and deputy sheriff.