By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
I grew up Lutheran in a predominantly Catholic community, so it was natural that many of my friends were Catholic.
Growing up, I remember passing many cars with St. Christopher statues on the dashboard. I don?t see as many of those statues any longer, some have been replaced by medals.
That being said, some recent events have proven to me that it is comforting to have God riding shotgun while driving.
On New Year?s Eve day, I was traveling to visit friends in northwest Iowa. The roads were becoming icy as I neared Des Moines, so I adjusted my speed accordingly. I was on Interstate 35-80 circling the north side of Des Moines when I rounded a curve at about 45 miles per hour.
There was an accident just ahead, impossible to see until you had rounded the curve. A vehicle was resting across the left lane. Impulse took over and I hit the brakes as I was approaching the accident much too quickly for comfort. Nothing. Instead of braking, my little Eclipse went into a fishtail, first right, then left. I didn?t have many options, there was a car in the right lane, a car across my lane and a concrete wall on the left.
Not only did I fishtail once, but three or four more times. I finally came to a stop, about 15 feet from the car involved in the accident. I missed the wall, the car in my lane and the car in the right lane. It was more of a rush than 10 cups of coffee, but I was safe and so was my car. I didn?t have to think twice to know that I had some help getting out of that one.
Memories of that close call surfaced again this week as I read about the Fairfield girls? golf team being driven to the conference golf meet by a coach who had a blood-alcohol content of .212, according to court records.
I also read some comments from the guy who succeeded in stopping the Suburban before another vehicle stopped in via accident.
?I?d been behind her for four or five miles but couldn?t get her to stop,? wrote Steve Lombardi of West Des Moines. ?The car was weaving all over the road, onto the shoulder and then across the center line. I watched and cringed as a semi-truck, a tractor pulling a huge disc, cars and pickup trucks passed her coming from the opposite direction. I, too, wondered why no one in the Suburban dialed 911.? But the sequence of events scared me so I have to assume the girls in the Suburban were more frightened than I was.?
Lombardi said as he approached the U.S. Highway 218 and Iowa Highway 16 intersection, he knew he had to act. ?I?d already made up my mind to do whatever it took to stop the car. There was no way in her condition she could continue. Her driving was erratic, with speeds varying from 40 to 65 miles-per-hour while weaving over the center line and off onto the shoulder.?
The West Des Moines shrugged off a comment on the Des Moines Register website that he was a hero. ?Heroes risk their own lives, what I did was my civic duty. These were someone?s children and they weren?t able to act. It was more of a matter of luck than anything. I was sitting in my truck, calling the driver?s supervisor when the Iowa State Patrol car pulled up beside me and asked me if something was wrong. I?ve never been so happy to see the Iowa State Patrol.
?What we don?t need are multiple funerals for a high school girls? golf team. I can?t even imagine the parents? sadness that would have occurred,? concluded Lombardi.
Several other factors make the story even more alarming. According to news reports, this was not the first time the girls had noticed erratic driving by their coach. One of the golfers complained to her dad who more or less dismissed it as some people do not pay attention when they drive.
Secondly, the coach was 59 years old, old enough to know better.
Thirdly, the events transpired between 7-7:30 a.m. and the coach?s blood-alcohol content (BAC) was not taken until two hours after she was stopped and still registered 2.5 times higher than the legally drunk BAC.
Finally, one of the girls texted her father about the coach?s driving. The father said he and his daughter exchanged approximately 65 text messages during the trip. Why texts and not a call? If I had been the father, I would have immediately called the Iowa State Patrol after the first text.
As a parent reading the news reports of the incident, I could feel the chills descending on my back. It is easy to place yourself or your daughter in that situation.
Fairfield may not have won the conference golf title, but they were the luckiest team competing.