When Enough is Never Enough
“I’m not going!” Sarah yelled through the screen door.
It will be two years tomorrow that our parents died in a car accident. We are trying to get out the door, so we can start our 8 hour drive to our grandparents house for the weekend.
“Sarah let’s go,” Savannah says, while trying to negotiate with Sarah from the front porch. “We will be fine.”
Sarah hasn’t really liked to travel much since our parents passed. Much less on the eve of there death. Being 9, I think she has had the hardest time letting go.
“Why can’t we just stay here this weekend?” Sarah asks.
I can see tears filling her eyes from here.
“I just want to stay home. Why can’t we just stay home,” Sarah begins to sob.
Savannah walks through the door to comfort her, “We told Grannie and Pop-pop we would come spend the weekend with them. We really should go and see them. I know you’re scared, but everything is going to be just fine Sarah.”
Savannah has taken over the natural mothering aspect of our family. It was pretty normal for her, as she was the oldest. She often tried to step on moms toes and mother hen us even when mom and dad were still here.
“Savannah, we don’t have to go,” Marcus chimes in, while carrying his backpack passed them to the car.
“Quiet Marcus, we DO have to go, besides Grannie has already made us our favorite!” Savannah adds.
Sarah jerks up quickly, “COOKIES!?”
“Cookies,” Savannah replies.
“I don’t know about you all, but I could really go for some warm cookies and a glass of cold milk.” I remark.
Savannah walks Sarah to the car and loads the remainder of her things. I lock up the house, and get into the drivers seat. Checking to be sure Marcus is behind me and is buckled up. He is spaced out as usual with his headphones blaring too loud and eyes focused out his window. Sarah has started playing some game on her Ipad, and Savannah is rumaging through her purse, most likely looking for her chapstick.
We rarely all get to go on trips together anymore. Savannah is in her final semester of Nursing school, and myself trying to make it through my freshman year of college. Marcus is rarely home, between football practice, and his junior year in high school. That leaves us all trying to keep up with Sarah’s 4th grade schedule. We try to keep her active and leading a normal life. She is currently putting her entire efforts into Ballet and Gymnastics.
Savannah and I took custody over Marcus and Sarah after mom and dad died. We didnt’ have to worry about money really, our parents life insurance policy has really helped out. You have to learn to grow up pretty quickly in this situation. No time for dating, or going out. We stick pretty hard to our schedules. Savannah and I tried our best to keep Marcus and Sarah’s lives as normal as possible, outside of them having to be raised by there older siblings.
The colors in the leaves have been changing for some time now. Mom always said Wisconsin had the best fall leaves in the World. The windy two lanes ahead of us are covered in reds, yellows, and browns, making for a beautiful drive. Savannah has been going on and on about her patients from the day, explaining in terminology no one in the car really understands or cares about.
The sun has been set for hours as we enter Milwaukee, and proceed North on 43. By this point Sarah and Marcus has fallen asleep in the backseat, I hear Sarah saying something in her sleep as I drive. She has began sleep talking lately, nothing really notable just enough to draw attention. We have hit a few snow flurries, which is pretty common for this time of year.
“Did Marcus tell you he isn’t passing Algebra II?” Savannah speaks up. The car has been silent for hours now.
“No, he failed to mention that.” I said, “Will he be able to finish out the football season?”
“I don’t know, report cards come out next week, his teacher insists if he would just turn in his homework he would be just fine. Everytime I bring it up to him, he just goes on and on about how the teacher is out to ‘get’ him.”
“I’ll talk to him about it this weekend and see what we can do about it. Did you know it was supposed to snow this weekend?”
“No, I checked the weather yesterday, the forecast didn’t show any signs of snow.”
The snow was coming down pretty heavy now, you could see it piling up on the sides of the road.
“I hope it lets up soon, I haven’t gotten the snow chains yet this year.” I say quietly to Savannah.
“I’m sure it will, we usually don’t get our first big snow until later in October anyway,” Savannah responds quietly.
“What time did you tell Pop-pop we would be there?”
“I told them it would be closer to 2, when we got there. He wasn’t too thrilled about that.”
“Yeah, neither am I. If it doesn’t let up soon, I might decide to pull over for the night.”
The snow is now coming down in sheets, causing our visibility to drop to just beyond the hood. We are crawling along now.
“This is nuts,” I whisper over to Savannah. “ There is no one on the roads, did we miss something?”
“Yeah, why don’t you just pull over on the side of the road. We can just sleep here tonight and finish up once it lets up.” Savannah responds.
As I merge over off the shoulder, I hear Savannah calling Grannie and Pop-pop. I park the car and turn the emergency flashers on. Snow has now started accumulating everywhere.
“Grannie?” Savannah asks confusingly, “This is Savannah, the weather has gotten really bad, we are just going to pull over for the night.”
“I love you too, we will see you in the morning.” Savannah finishes up, and hangs up the phone.
Sarah is now awake and aware of what’s going on, and is showing her concern all over her face. I start collecting blankets and pillows from the back, while Savannah tries to comfort Sarah. Marcus is getting settled in his seat for the night.
Savannah and Sarah are now cuddled in the middle seat, while I recline my seat and try to get comfortable.
“Goodnight Marcus, goodnight Jakie, goodnight Savannah,” Sarah says softly.
“Goodnight Sarah,” Savannah says while she kisses Sarah on the cheek.
“Goodnight,” Marcus growls.
“Goodnight everyone,” I reply.
Laying there in the car I can’t help but focus on the constant clicking of the emergency flashers. Trying to just drift away into dreamland.
Hours later I wake up, the air is stiff and cold. At some point the car has shut off. Turning around to see Savannah and Sarah even more closely wrapped together, and hearing the chatter of what I suppose is Marcus’ teeth chattering. Looking at my phone it is 2:45am. The clicking of the emergency flashers is no more, slightly concerning me. I turn over the key in the ignition to find no response. Again, I try to turn the car one. Once again being responded to with a resounding silence.
The windows are fogged over, and snow has incased every inch of the car.
“What’s wrong?” Savannah whispers.
“I’m not sure the car seems to be dead,” I respond quietly. “You should get everyone to put on there clothes from there bags.”
I pick up my phone to call Grannie, but notice I have no service. “Savannah, do you have cell service?”
“Let me check,” Savannah says, “No, that’s weird I just called them a few hours ago.”
“I know, let’s just get some clothes on to stay warm.”
“What’s going on?” Marcus asks, “Why is it so cold?”
“I think the battery is dead Marcus,” I say.
“Did you call Grannie?” Marcus asks
“No, we don’t have any service,” I reply.
Sarah sits up, “I told you guys we should have stayed home,” she says. “Now we are never going to get to Grannie and Pop-pops.”
“Sarah, it’s going to be fine, Grannie and Pop-pop know where we are, they’ll come looking for us when they haven’t heard from us,” Savannah explains.
“Yeah, but by that time we will be popsicles!” Marcus says sarcastically.
“Enough Marcus,” I say sternly.
That is the last thing I remember. That is the last thought I remember crossing my mind, telling Marcus to cut it out. Blackness encompassed my mind. I remember hearing a loud popping noise, and several crashing noises, then silence. Complete silence, what was happening?
Pain, I feel pain. I have a headache like never before. My back is killing me, and my legs are in excusciating pain. What is that noise? What is that wailing sound? What is going on? Where am I? Where is everyone? What has happened? I have lost what seems like all sense of time. That noise is still there, what is it? I can’t seem to get over the constant ringing in my ears, but there is something else there. Something else. I start to open my eyes. Everything is cold. So cold, there is something jabbing me in my back. My legs are in such great pain. What’s in my mouth? My eyes are opened, I am struggling to focus, I am on sensory overload. The world seems to be spinning, but I see white. White. Snow. I see snow, where am I? I hear… I hear screaming… I hear someone yelling… I hear. Sarah.
The sound of Sarah’s voice jolts me to attention. I sit up spitting, coughing. What is in my mouth? As I wipe my mouth I realize, I have dirt in my mouth, and blood, and what seems like reminence of probably snow and ice. My head feels like I’ve been smashed in the head by a two-by-four. Maybe I had. It’s hard to make anything out, it’s so dark. The only thing I’m able to focus on is the bright white light coming from right in front of me, illuminating the snow in front of me. I touch my head where the pain is centered, it’s tender, it hurts to touch. Bringing my hand down, I notice it is covered in blood.
The scream of Sarah is blood curdling, followed by intense sobs.
“S-ss… Ssssarah…. SARAH!” I yell, “SARAH! MARCUS! SAVANNAH!”
Where are they, what has happened? Sarah continues to scream. Where is she? Oh God, what has happened. Are they okay? What has happened to me? I struggle to stand up, with intense pain in my back, legs, and head. I don’t care, I must find my family. When I stand up, I see what looks like a war zone. Pieces of our car scattered across the road, right in front of me is a Semi. It has rolled over ontop of itself scattering it’s liquid content as far as I can see. Where is my car? Where is everyone? I hear Sarah’s cries much clearer now.
I follow them to the edge of the light, ignoring any pain I currently feel. We’ve been hit. We were hit by a truck, a Semi. I walk towards Sarah’s cries, blindly walking past the trucks headlights. The ground slopes down below me, the snow gives causing me to slip and slide down the small hill. This sends pain up my spine, taking the breath out of me. Once I am able to gather my thoughts I roll over to stand up, there is something warm beside me. Oh God, it’s a body. Whose body? I get close enough to hear labored breathing, I pull myself back to try to examine and gather any features I might be able to identify. With out a doubt, I see very clearly it is Savannah.
“Savannah! Savannah! Can you hear me?” I shake her and slap her in the face. “Savannah, Oh God, Oh God, Savannah!” Tears are collecting in my eyes. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s hard to keep back the knot that has formed in my stomach.
“Savannah, WAKE UP!” I yell again.
Sarah’s crying persists in the background, I get up to go find Sarah. Tears streaming down my face. “Sarah, I’m coming. Baby girl everything is going to be okay.” Squeezing the words out past the sobs.
Shuffling my feet further into the darkness. My eyes have started to adjust, and I’m able to make out shapes, and figures in the darkness. I am getting close to Sarah, she must be feet in front of me. Behind me I hear coughing, and gagging, but I proceed forward to Sarah’s cries.
She is below me, I bend over to find her and comfort her. Her little warm body is trembling. She is hysterical.
“Sarah, Sarah, Honey it is me, it’s Jake.” I try to sooth her. What am I thinking, I am sobbing, how am I going to sooth her? How am I going to comfort anyone, when I can’t even comfort myself.
“Sarah baby, are you okay? What hurts? I need you to stop crying and talk to me.”
Sarah’s cries slow, “J-J-Jakie.”
“J-Jakie, it hurts.”
“I know love, what hurts.” I say trying to hold back sobs, yet tears stream down my face.
“I know, I know, I am going to try to carry you, okay?”
“No, no no. Don’t, it hurts.” Sarah says anxiously.
“I need to get you to the light baby, I need to see you,” I try to explain tenderly.
“It hurts though Jakie. I’m scared. I want to go home,” her sweet voice exclaims.
I can’t handle this, I can’t do this. What am I going to do? My family! Marcus? Where is Marcus, and what has happend to Savannah. The knot in my stomach has cleared to my throat, causing me to feel completely nausious. I think I’m going to be sick.
Picking up Sarah, I move her little body back up the hill trying not to trip or slip with her in my arms. I pass the spot where I think Savannah’s body is. Cresting the top, I lay Sarah down in the headlights of the Semi. I can’t handle the sight of her little body covered in blood. She has glass shards in her beautiful face. Her eyes are already swollen, and blackened with bruising.
“Sarah, I need to go get Savannah and Marcus. I need you to lay here, don’t move can you do that? I need you to be a big girl for me,” I explain.
She nods, and doesn’t say anything.
I turn and walk back down the hill, looking for the place where Savannah’s body laid.
“Savannah! Marcus!” with no response.
I find Savannah laying in the same place I left her, breathing just as labored as before. “Savannah,” I whisper. “Savannah, wake up. I need you to wake up. I can’t handle this, I need you Savannah.”
She coughs, “Jake,” she struggles to say.
“Oh God, you’re alive. Savannah, don’t move we’ve been in an accident,” I tell her.
“Jake,” her raspy breath exclaims. “Jake, where is Sarah? Where is Marcus?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know. Sarah is up on the road, but I haven’t found Marcus. Savannah, I need you to be okay, I need you to,” I struggle to get out. Tears begin streaming once again, followed by sobbing.
“Jake, you have to find Marcus,” she gets out followed by a cough.
“Savannah, what hurts?” I ask. She grabs my hand, and places it on her chest. It’s wet, and warm. There is something sticking through her chest.
“No, no no no. Savannah, no.” I cry out.
“Jake you have to… you have to.. find Marcus,” she struggles to get out.
“I know, I know, Savannah, you’re going to be okay,” I say followed by sobs.
I’m going to be sick, I’m going to throw up. I can’t handle this. I stand up and turn around, and begin to vomit. I throw up a good 3 or 4 times, until there is nothing left in me. Wiping my mouth, and turning to talk to Savannah.
“Savannah, I’m going to get you to the light, okay?” I tell her.
Her breathing has stopped. She is not responding.
“Savannah! You can’t do this dammnit!” I say.
“Savannah! Please! Don’t leave me! You can’t go!” I cry out.
“No! Savannah… No… no… no.” I sit there quietly sobbing.
Marcus. Where is Marcus, I don’t know if I can bare the idea of losing Marcus right now. Sarah. How is she? How am I going to get us out of this?
“MARCUS!” I yell. “MARCUS!
I head back up the hill to find Sarah huddled up under a blanket she must have found somewhere on the road.
“Sarah, how are you doing sweetie?” I ask
“I’m really cold Jakie, I really want to go home,” she says sweetly.
“I know sweet pea, I do to.”
“Did you find Savannah and Marcus?” she asks.
Oh Sarah, how am I going to tell her. Now is not the time for that.
“Not yet baby, I will let you know when I do.”
I stand up to walk around the Semi, when it hits me. Gasoline, I smell gasoline. I walk to the side of the Semi, and see BP written on the side of it. This truck is carrying gasoline. The gasoline is all over the road. I have to get us out of here. I walk along the road, that is when I see the car, I start jogging to it.
“MARCUS!” I yell.
Please God let me find Marcus, please God let him be alive. Please God get us safely out of here.
I look into the car, searching through the mutilated piece of metal for Marcus. He is nowhere to be seen.
“MARCUS!” I yell again.
I hear something in the brush. I walk over to the edge of the road, “Marcus,” I say.
“Jake help me!” He says. I know it’s Marcus, and by the sound of it, he is in pain, and is about to start crying.
“Marcus, I’m coming, stay still.”
I get to Marcus, I see that his legs are caught under something. I go to lift whatever the massive metal object is, and it doesn’t move.
“Marcus, I need you to try to help me get this off you. You won’t be able to move until we get this off you.”
“I don’t know if I can Jake.”
“I need you to try Marcus, I need you to help me get you out of here. Okay, on the count of three. Ready? One, Two, Three.”
We both push as hard as we can the big metal object starts to lift. It is up just enough for Marcus to pull his legs out of. We release it and it crashes back down.
“Marcus, let me help you up, let’s go over to Sarah.”
“Sarah! Is she okay? How about Savannah?”
“Sarah is fine, I’m not sure about Savannah,” I say knowing it is a lie. Savannah is dead.
“We have to find Savannah, Jake.”
“I know Marcus, I know we have to find Savannah.”
“What if she’s really hurt!”
“I know this Marcus, let’s just get you to Sarah.”
I lift up Marcus on one shoulder, and we hobble back to see where Sarah is. Sarah is crying, and gets up to hold Marcus. Marcus begins to sob at this point. Both embracing.
“You both stay here, I will be right back.”
I walk to the cab of the Semi and crawl into the cab, the lifeless driver dangles in his seat. I reach for his CV Radio, I hold down the button, and speak into the mic. “Hello, is anyone there? We have been in an accident. We need help! Please anyone! Hello?” I release the button hoping for a responce. I hear nothing, I try again, “Hello, hello!? I am on highway fourty-three about onehour north of Milwaukee, if anyone is there, please help! We have several injured people, and some people I believe to be dead, if anyone is there please respond!” I say again, then wait in silence.
I crawl back out of the cab, and move over to Sarah and Marcus.
“Someone will come, we just need to wait until morning,” I say.
“Why aren’t you looking for Savannah?” Sarah says.
“I… I don’t know…” I reply.
“She’s dead isn’t she?” Sarah asks.
Tears fill my eyes as I look at her.
“She went to heaven like mom and dad didn’t she?” Sarah says.
Marcus looks at me with tears in his eyes, “Is it true?”
I nod sheepishly, “She is.”
Sarah and Marcus sink into my chest, crying. I kiss them both on the head, as tears stream down my face.
We stay in this position until the sun starts to rise. Sarah and Marcus have fallen asleep. I just sit, waiting. In the distance I hear something, sirens. When I reposition to better hear what’s approaching, Sarah and Marcus sit up. I stand up to look behind us, approaching quickly are several emergency vehicles. As the sun starts to shed it’s light on the road, I realize how lucky we are to be alive. My sister wasn’t so lucky though.
We will survive this I think to myself. We will make it.