Maybe you’ve heard about the accident? It’s been on the news, all over Facebook, in the papers…
On Tuesday afternoon, my son Gabe and some friends drove out to the Bonneville Salt Flats for a picnic and, you know, to drive around the flats. Have you been there? Have you seen photos of the flats? They’re pretty amazing. Flat white salt extending to gentle mountains– they have an otherworldly appeal and are a favorite of photographers and adventurers. The flats have been especially popular during quarantine because it’s just so easy to have a fantastic time there and stay faaaaar away from other people.
For Gabe and friends, this gathering was planned as a graduation party of sorts. They’d missed all the events, canceled their senior trip and felt like this could be a safe, fun celebration.
After wandering the flats, cooking dinner over a fire and creating the perfect s’mores, the kids were just about ready to pack up and go home when three boys went for a drive.
And that’s what people do on the Salt Flats– they drive. Race car drivers gather from around the world to enjoy the smooth speed.
Gabe and his friends waited for fifteen minutes, then thirty. It was pitch dark and they couldn’t even guess which direction their friends had gone. After an hour and a half, they saw a tow truck drive by and assumed car trouble. Then an ambulance, and then three helicopters life-flighting their friends out of a horrific crash.
Thankfully, the right person was there. Here, let me just repost what he wrote on Facebook:
My thoughts and prayers to these 3 teenage boys. Luckily we were about 150 yards away from the accident. I saw a car at high speed driving across the flats then I told my kids that I hope they see the wall and they drove right in to it. So I got in my car and rushed over and my stomach dropped when I got to the scene. I tried to get the driver out but he was pinned to the steering wheel and the engine was in his lap. So i went to the passenger side and was able to pull him out. The 3rd passenger was able to get out the back window. The driver was pinned but I could see he was still heavily breathing and bleeding but he was stuck. The Wendover Rescue team showed up about half hour later and had to chainsaw the door and engine off the driver. Long story short I believe they will all be okay. They were all breathing but I know the driver is in really serious condition. Three life flights arrived to take all 3 boys to the hospital.The officer said luckily we were still in the area cause if not these boys probably would not have been found till the next day. It was in the middle of nowhere.
Posted by Semisi Latu on Wednesday, May 27, 2020
And because Semisi set the tone, the comments on Semisi’s Facebook page are full of prayers and love. His example colored the way people reacted to the accident.
Not everyone has been so kind. I pray the boys’ families don’t read the comments on news sites.
Was the accident stupid? Yes.
Have we all done stupid things? Oh yes.
It’s such a classic, just-graduated, end-of-high-school sort of accident. Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, have done pretty stupid stuff.
Anyone who knows these three boys would judge them favorably– they are overachievers with high scores and scholarships, mission calls and ROTC assignments, handsome and kind and beloved by their friends and family. No drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident just poor judgment. But should it matter? Do we only offer acceptance and compassion to those we judge worth saving? Semisi knew none of those facts, he simply reached out and offered his hand.
I guess I’m saying, I always want to be the person who pulls the kids out of the car and prays for their recovery. I don’t want to point fingers and assess blame– especially when someone is fighting for their life.
Two of the boys will be out of the hospital this weekend, one is still in critical condition. We’re fasting and praying and sharing multiple updates during the day.
And at the same time, on the national stage, we’re watching the story of a man named George Floyd. He didn’t receive compassion from those who should have protected him, he didn’t even receive common decency.
I don’t know exactly how these human stories fit together, but I know we are all brothers and sisters. I know we need to do better.