FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: An Ordinary Sunday Morning.

by Dave Markwell

On an ordinary Sunday morning with a late spring sun peeking through the high clouds, my buddy Dave and his wife and young son were driving through the sweet sage and early corn-sprouted fields of eastern Washington. They were making a store run for coffee and beer and water for our holiday weekend camping crew. On the lightly travelled two-lane country road, they were making a regular trip on a regular morning; a morning like many other mornings.

Ahead in the distance, an anomaly broke the ordinary scene: the road was littered with debris and a woman was walking around frantically and talking on her phone. Approaching the site, it was clear that an accident had happened. Dave stopped the car. In speaking with the woman, it was discovered that the other vehicle had careened into an irrigation canal.

Seeing the SUV in the water and no passengers in the water, it was clear that people were still in the car. Dave jumped in and swam to the back of the vehicle and he heard voices, including a child’s scream. In the frigid and swift current, Dave dove beneath the water to try to unlock the back hatch. He tried to unlock doors and as the car was still barely afloat, but air was present, he debated busting out a window and whether or not doing so might compromise the already delicate buoyancy and cause the car to sink faster.

Eventually, emergency vehicles arrived and a lot of talking happened. Frustrated by the lack of action, Dave got in the water again, this time with a hook and cable and tried to attach the car to the line. Again, in the cold, quick current with trained personnel standing on the banks of the canal, Dave dove under the water and searched for a secure hold. He found what he could and swam to shore. He was shaken and bleeding from crawling around the sharp, bent metal in the dark water. He did the best he could. In a moment he was unprepared for, he acted. He was just going to the store when circumstances called him to act and he did.

Four people died: a mother, a father, and their two children aged three and seven.

Obviously, this was the worst possible outcome and against all the hopes and wishes and prayers it came true. And this idea is at the core of any insight I have gained as the result of this tragedy. Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts and our highest hopes, our greatest wishes and most sincere prayers, bad things happen.

Despite his will and his strength and his blood, Dave could not save those people. He just couldn’t. A bad thing happened. On an ordinary Sunday morning in the soft fields and cold water off of a tar and gravel country back road, a bad thing happened. Through fate or folly, bad things happen.

This is little or no solace to my friend who dove in the water and heard the voices. I suspect he will hear those voices forever. My only condolence and the only redeeming element in the circumstances for him that I can see is that he ACTED. While many others stood on the safe shoreline and waited for someone else to DO IT, he DID IT. This is not a small thing. This is a big thing and in fact, might be the biggest thing there is. And for this, I am more proud of my friend than my words can express.

Life happens and bad things happen. When they do, choices are made and the most significant choice is whether or not to act. I respectfully submit that in our actions we are revealed. Outcomes are sometimes unfair, unjust and make no logical sense, but happen just the same.

As they always do, tragedies force us to face the real world where the bad things happen. In doing so, a greater awareness of our own fickle mortality stares us down. Oddly, in the hollow, dark eyes we see light. This light is changes us. We see the value of a sunrise and a cheeseburger and a blade of grass. We see more and this more is truth. We see life for what it is. And it is beautiful.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]


One Response to “FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: An Ordinary Sunday Morning.”
  1. Dave, you’ve done it again. Made me think and made me take stock of what’s GOOD in my life. Thank you, my friend!

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