By Judy Brandon
The Salt River Canyon highway in Arizona is about 10 miles of winding road meandering between steep mountains on one side and deep rugged canyons below. Once a traveler gets to the bottom where the river runs, it is time to start back up the other side. The narrow highway with its crooked and sharp curves keeps drivers creeping at slow speeds.
On one trip, Annie, Buffy, Mother and I were traveling though the Salt River Canyon. Our drive was uneventful until suddenly several ambulances came up behind us. We pulled over to let them pass.
Later, just as we rounded one of the sharp corners on the highway, in the distant darkness we could see the blinking lights of ambulances and police cars. Flares lit up the highway and as we approached, we could see about 15 cars in a row lined up ahead.
We pulled up behind the last car and, like the others, turned the ignition off. Soon more cars pulled in behind us. The news passed from car to car: there had been a terrible accident involving 13 people. Evidently one car had tried to pass on that steep incline, hit an oncoming car and then three other cars crashed into them.
Suddenly sounds of emergency evacuation helicopters filled the dark sky. Helicopter spotlights lit up the entire area searching for a secure place to land on the steep mountainside. Minutes later with the critically wounded loaded, the helicopters went straight up into the air carrying the injured back to hospitals in Phoenix. Two ambulances left and came up our way. They had turned off their flashing lights and had no lights on inside. We guessed that either they had given up their wounded to the helicopters or they were carrying the dead back to the nearest city.
All we could hear was the sound of the helicopters landing and taking off some 500 feet ahead of us. We could hear the echoes in the darkness. Then five wreckers came and loaded the flattened and smashed cars.
The line of cars behind us continued to grow. Soon it stretched maybe a half-mile, out of our view. After two hours, the last of the wounded were loaded and taken to medical centers. The barriers were taken down and we were finally given the signal to go ahead.
As we rounded the corner to the scene of the accident, smashed guardrails and clutter lay along the edge of the highway. As we progressed we saw a long line of cars on the other side waiting until we passed so they could proceed out of the canyon.
I wondered about those 13 people in the cars. Little did they know what lay ahead. When they rounded that corner on that road in the canyon, an instant changed the course of their lives drastically.
So many times in our lives, days and weeks go by in uneventful order. Yet, in a minute’s time, a person’s life and its course can be changed forever. A doctor’s report, a message from the police, a call in the middle of the night… then our ordered and stable lives collapse around us. The fact is that life just does not always go as planned.
That night I realized again how uncertain our existence here on earth really is. We have no guarantee of tomorrow, or even the next hour or the next minute. The only assurance that we have in this life is in knowing Jesus Christ as savior. We may not know what is ahead on the road of life, but it is enough to know the one who is all-knowing.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: