It was early evening as she made her way slowly across the Massachusetts Turnpike, an an uneven and halting pace after the long holiday weekend. There was an edgy aggressiveness of harried, anxious motorists eager to get home from stressful family obligations. This unholy angst rose up from the dark pavement like a thousand jagged-edged knives cutting. Hostile Boston-bound drivers are nothing new, but this was worse than usual, she thought. The surly ones darted in between those more frightened and cautious, resulting in a dangerous dance, a bubbling cauldron.

She stayed in the middle lane, steady and watchful though the tedious start/stop motion had caused her restless mind to wander. The pace had quickened somewhat and traveling now at about 30 miles per hour, it was nearly too late when she saw the stopped line of cars in the left lane just ahead. A car darted out manically ahead of her from the left, unaware. Instinct took over, which caused her to veer wildly to the right as she saw out of the corner of her eye the crash, and heard metal on metal.

So close to disaster, she felt the debris hit the side of her car. She kept driving with her eyes riveted straight ahead, unhurt but not untouched, her thoughts back at the site of the crash, in the aftermath.

In her mind’s eye, even as SUVs moved past her, uncaring and unseeing, like a heartless robot battalion, she saw twisted metal and injuries, frightened children and families who faced an all-night ordeal, who would not be warm in their beds for hours, if at all. But for a second earlier, an inch this way or that, she would be there with them in their shock and fear. It all felt like haphazard chance. Who gets caught up in the twisted metal, and who gets to cruise by unscathed?

As she tried to calm her rattled nerves, she thought of one particular SUV she saw zooming past haughtily. She imagined its driver and occupants, an upper middle-class family, shielded in their armored vehicle, secure in their certainty, protective and insular. They watch their sanitized version of the news, make the requisite donations to charities at Christmas time, and consider themselves to be enlightened and well-informed. But did they stop on that darkened stretch of highway to be of assistance? She didn’t stop either, and the thought made her feel ashamed.

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