Liesl and I drove to Anchorage last Thursday morning for a dentist appointment, and all the errands we always pile on to a trip to town.
By early afternoon, we were at our last stop—the grocery store. We split the list in half and went our separate ways. I was on my way to the freezer section when Liesl called. “Where are you?” she asked. I told her. She said, “Don’t get anything cold–there was an accident on the Seward. The highway’s closed down.”
There’s only one road between Anchorage and Girdwood, and it’s a dangerous one. With a single lane in each direction, it winds along the Turnagain Arm, and the scenery is always a distraction. In the summer, gawking tourists, tired fishermen and impatient locals all share the road. Their different needs and skills are too often in conflict.
Thursday’s three-vehicle crash began when a van, returning to Anchorage from a fishing trip, crossed the center lane and hit a pick-up truck head-on, killing its driver. The van continued on and hit another southbound vehicle, an SUV. The SUV later caught fire. In addition to the driver of the pickup truck, sixteen people were injured, eight of them seriously.
We’d heard that the road would open at 7 p.m., so Liesl and I found a few more errands to run. But when we got to Potter Marsh shortly after seven, a sign said that the road would be closed until 10 p.m.
Since Friday morning (Boston time) is my deadline for the Interdependent Web, Liesl and I hitched a flight back to Girdwood. As we flew along the arm, we could see traffic backed up for miles on either side of the accident.
When we drove to Anchorage on Friday to pick up our Subaru, we saw that there’s a huge black mark on the highway at Indian, from where the SUV burned. It’s a stark reminder.
This morning at the Anchorage UU Fellowship I lit a candle in memory of Jason Small, the driver of the pickup. I didn’t know Jason, but he worked for Chugach Powder Guides, whose hangar is right next door to Liesl’s at the Girdwood airport. He was almost exactly my age.
In the video below he says that those of us who are not really living should “get off the couch.” Lighting candles is good, but in this case, getting off the couch and into the world seems a more fitting tribute.