I didn't see the blood at first, pools and eddies and smears everywhere on the sidewalk, ineffectually covered with sawdust in some places. I teetered, off balance, on my toes, stopping in my tracks at the last possible second so that I wouldn't step in it, throwing out my arm in the age-old gesture of mothers whose children didn't wear seatbelts in cars, to stop the son, so he wouldn't step in it.
We stared in horror at the evidence: discarded rubber gloves, papers, things my mind couldn't even identify at 6:55 in the morning.
As the son and I turned the corner a few minutes earlier on our way to the bus stop, talking quietly, we'd immediately seen disaster: sheriff and police cars, yellow tape closing off the street, two flat bed tow trucks.
"Oh my God," I said quietly, covering my mouth with my hand, as I caught sight of the burned remains of the front end of a car. Only the front end. Suddenly, the whole story was rushing together with frightening clarity.
But nothing prepared me for all that blood, still fresh, still red. The wreckage, the evidence of humanity lost, was awful enough, but I never expected blood. The son and I stared at my bare toes in sandals, millimeters from the first of the stains. My brain screamed, "GET HIM OUT OF HERE" as it tried to process the debris around us, as it processed my child's wide-eyed, ashen face.
When I got him across the street to his bus, I just hugged him for a moment.
"I'm so sorry you saw that. I'm so sorry you saw that," I told him over and over.
"I'm not," he said grimly. "I think I just learned one of those lessons you're always talking about."
Is this how we learn our lessons now? Avoiding a pool of another child's blood?
At 2:45 this morning, a 17-year-old traveling at a high rate of speed lost control of the car he was driving, hitting a light pole, tearing the car in half, sending debris flying for blocks in all directions. What was left of the car burst into flames.
The 16-year-old passenger died at the scene, according to one of the sheriffs.
The driver has been booked under suspicion of DUI.
These children, lives ruined or gone, scant years older than the 14-year-old avoiding their blood on the sidewalk.
There's a great deal I don't believe I can say at this point, not knowing all the story, and I'm trying not to be hasty, I'm trying not to rush to judgment. I know that accidents do happen, that bad things happen to good people and that I myself am so very imperfect, in my life and sometimes in my parenting. The only thing I know for sure is that this morning, I just missed stepping in the blood of some other mother's child. Knowing that alone, I am sickened and despairing and very, very angry.
Maybe my son did learn a lesson this morning--I know I will never forget what I saw out there--but he learned it at the expense of another child's senseless death.
Go listen to some good music: "Blood Makes Noise" from the album 99.9F by Suzanne Vega.