Chatting away about who-knows what to my friend Amy, who was sitting in the passenger seat. The sun facing us, but it wasn't terribly in my eyes as I drove down the road. The next hundred or so things happened in the space of about two seconds.
"Ball," she said, "ball!" as her arms went up to point at it.
I didn't see a ball straight away, I looked at her quickly to see where she was pointing to. The ball wasn't on the road so I was a little confused. As my eyes flicked from Amy and back to the street I finally saw the ball bounce high, several metres in front of the car, suddenly followed far too closely by a girl of about 9 years.
As quickly as my brain worked, the brakes in the car locked. The force threw Amy and I into our seatbelts which worked incredibly. My handbag on the back seat was flung into the back of the passenger's seat and fell to the floor. The bottle of water in the bag was lost under the same seat too.
The screech of the brakes, the blue smoke, the girl's face, the "sorry!" The moment of disbelief while the smoke drifted away, the look on the face of the man in the car behind us, the bus behind him. All stationary.
All stationary except the girl, who ran back across the road, while the smoke was still there, to fetch the ball. "Sorry!"
Once the girl was safe, Amy and I, still in a little bit of shock, the adrenaline pumping, we analysed the whole situation. What I should have done, what the girl should have done, what I should have said to the girl, what the cars behind us might have been thinking.
Wondering what her parents may or may not have taught her about running on the road, whether it would have made a difference. Wondering if the girl's parents knew where she was.
Wondering what exactly the girl said sorry for. The ball, the fact I stopped, the fact she nearly got hit?
I didn't stop because of the ball. I stopped because I was about to hit her.
Disbelief, anger, pity, fright, shame, horror, repeat anger.
Adrenaline does many strange things. One of the first things I said was, "OH! Now I'll have bald spots on my tyres!" Of all the things.
I felt ok. Amy was ok. The girl was ok. We kept on going to our destination. We hung out with a Sophie and Rosita, briefly talked about it. We forgot.
It was time to go home. As soon as I was behind the wheel, it was at the front of my mind again. All the questions, all the analysing. I drove so cautiously home. I felt scared that I was going to do something wrong myself and cause an accident. But why? It's trauma. It makes you do weird things.
Sure this might not seem like a 'big deal', but when you're the driver and you very nearly hit someone by no fault of your own, it is a big deal.
I've never had to slam the brakes of my car on so hard that they lock up. It's something I've always wondered about though... I've never been in a situation where I've come so close to hitting a human being before. That's not something I've wondered much about at all.
I finally arrived home, tired. But far too awake. I couldn't sleep, everything going over in my mind again and again. I woke up several times in the night, I just couldn't get comfortable and my mind was too busy.
I felt for the girl. What is it like for her at home? I felt compelled to pray for her. So I did. And then, I fell asleep.
I felt like writing it down and sharing it here might help me. And maybe it'll help you, too. In some way, to try remember to be ever-aware when you're driving.
Always follow the speed limit.
Always be ready to stop and be ready to stop suddenly.
Follow the car in front of you with a safe distance - what if they have to stop suddenly?
Teach your children to leave a ball alone if it goes across the road. Wait for it to be safe to go get it.
If I had been going over 50 kilometres per hour, I would have hit her. If I stopped two metres ahead of where I did, I probably would have hit her. That's the reality I keep thinking about.
Scary! Frightening! But it's over now and what can I take from it? Experience. I'm SO glad Amy was there with me. I'm SO glad the vehicles behind me were able to stop safely too and not hit us or worse, shunt us further forward and potentially hit the girl.
Thank you Jesus, for having some angels around that girl yesterday.