The accident happened only minutes before my husband and I arrived at the intersection of Fern Bluff Road. Traffic had stopped, people stood beside cars and nearby houses with dropped jaws. A state trooper had just arrived and appeared to be calming witnesses who had pulled a family, including a one-year-old child, from a burning car — battle ribbons to all of them. A fire truck had cordoned off the intersection with hoses while first responders worked strenuously and tirelessly giving CPR to an 89-year-old, who, if he survives, owes his life to the Sultan Fire Department. Few things are as durable as a horrific memory and, with regard to this highway; there have been too many such memories.
But this letter isn't just about another brilliant summer day ruined by a two-lane road that ought to have been converted to a four-lane, divided highway a quarter-century ago. Interpolating from available statistics, I guesstimate that since my husband and I bought a farm here more than 25 years ago, nearly 100 people have died on this thoroughfare. That is the same number of people who perished on another warm mid- July day when they stormed the Bastille and the French Revolution began. Sadly, the fallen in the war on U.S. 2 will never be honored by a national holiday.
Why has this highway been allowed to habitually fall through the cracks? I lay its carnage at the feet of city and county building officials, and at every one of my county, state and national representatives, as well as leaders of the construction and real estate industry, all of whom, past and present, have brought thousands of new residents here without an iota of conscience as to the consequences of the traffic problems caused by additional vehicles, three for every new residence.
Will anything happen? And by “anything,” speak not of ridiculous Band-Aids — traffic lights and traffic circles. Alas, I fear that greed and the blind eye of apathy have rendered us sightless. This notorious blood alley has become a major health issue and is everyone's problem. We need not always export our goodwill to a Third World country in order to save the innocent from a fiery death.
As I contemplate another sleepless night, the event of July 12 again rises up before me. I picture the almost countless and growing number of white roadside crosses, the endless patches of investigating marks and symbols — spray-painted day-glow orange lines, broken orange lines, blue circles and arrows, red flare stubs, gray flare ash, little orange cones, larger orange cones, black skid marks and burned spaghetti shreds of rubber tire. Even in my dreams I travel this roadway while considering my options: Either I put my life in the hands of the kindness of strangers and the skill of first responders — life-saving awards to all, you are my heroes — or I can move.
Call this commentary hysterical and I will plead “yes;” because, if this is not a war, then it is slaughter by proxy.
Jana Harris lives in Sultan.
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