I met Antonio today. I
had never met him before but he seemed like a hard working family man.
He looked older than I, although he was younger; some people end up
leading harder lives than others I guess. Later I met his neighbor and
roommate who had nothing but good things to say about him; hard
working, never smoked or drank. Antonio came here from El Salvador and
was supporting his wife and two daughters back in his home country. He
worked full time at a metal plant in the next town over and was due to
go back home to El Salvador soon. He had been working here for several years.
Antonio was on his way to his second job before I met him. He had worked all day and was now on his way to his night job at a local restaurant. Antonio was taking the back way to the restaurant. At the intersection of a state highway he was on the cross street and was proceeding on a green light. A car was stopped at the red light inbound on the highway and across the street another driver was stopped. At the same time a 17 year old boy was inbound on the highway in his SUV and talking on his cell phone to his mother. The boy did not notice the red light until it was too late. The SUV smashed into Antonio’s car, directly into the driver’s side. Antonio never stood a chance and probably never knew what hit him. There were no skid marks before the impact point.
Antonio was at peace now, although the blood and mangled car disturbed this image. Antonio now joined the sad number of over 42,000 others who die similar transportation deaths each year in America. This was the very same intersection that one of my co-workers had pulled a man from a burning pickup truck on New Years Day after a similar accident. That man lived, Antonio did not, sometimes it happens that way. 42,000 of sometimes is too much I think. My co-workers and I get to meet a lot of Antonio’s each year. They are young and they are old, and they all have different life stories, until they leave and then all have a similar story.
I commented to the judge who arrived on scene to pronounce Antonio’s death that I suspected that this intersection met all of a transportation engineer’s requirements. After all, our new high school is located just down the street from this intersection. Later, while on the way to deliver the news of Antonio’s death to his roommate, co-worker, and friend from El Salvador, I mentioned to our Victim’s Services volunteer that it’s a shame that we have to drive everywhere in our lives as Antonio did. It doesn’t have to be this way. We could build our communities differently. Maybe then I could have met Antonio before he left.