Thomas had just dialed 9-1-1 as his mom disappeared around the Explorer for Kevin. He had forced Maggie to sit on boulder, and the car seat was beside her. Both girls were in tears, but Thomas was in too much shock, he could barely manage the phone in his shaking hands. The silence in the clearing was so loud, drowning out the sound of passing cars.
“Your emergency,” a disembodied voice said.
“Our truck is in the water,” he said. “I’m on our cell, I don’t know where we are.” His voice started shaky, but became more purposeful.
“How many of you are there?” the operator asked.
“My mom, my brother, my two sisters,” Thomas said. “My brother, he had a seizure.”
“Was he driving?” the operator asked. He was distracted from the truck, as a passerby pulled off the road, and ran towards him.
“My mom is in the water,” he shouted. “She’s trying to get my brother.”
“Stay here,” the driver commanded.
“Mom,” he screamed, as the truck as it rolled to rest on its side, the driver’s side tires coming out of the water.
“Son, son,” the operator said, steadily raising her voice. “ Honey, I need to know where you are, you need to give me a hint. Did you pass any signs? What do you remember?’
“My mom is in the water, I don’t see her,” he stammered. “The truck rolled over.”
“Honey, listen to me, tell me where you are.”
“Seventeen,” he answered. “We’re on seventeen. We’re going to Summerville. We’re twenty miles from Charleston, we saw a sign.” The passerby emerged from behind the truck struggling with a body in his arms. He laid Kevin down on the dry ground, Thomas could hear his muffled protests as he began recovering from his seizure.
“He’s okay,” the passerby called, and he turned to back towards the water.
“Okay, honey, I got a rescue vehicle on the way, you’ll hear it real soon. I need you to stand on the side of the road, not too close to the road, so they can find your family.” Thomas slowly walked to highway, turning back to look at his sisters, Maggie was still too stunned to move. He saw the hazard lights of the passerby’s car were on, blinking furiously, and he mentioned it to the operator.
“That’s great, honey,” she replied. “I’m gonna go ahead and stay on the phone with you okay?”
Thomas nodded. He was staring at the truck, waiting for the passerby to come around it carrying his mom.
He heard the sirens before he saw the lights, and then the rescue vehicles were there so quickly. Men in bright yellow pants were jumping out of the vehicles. They were setting up spotlights, and running to his sisters. One ran to him and grabbed the cell, said something into it, hung up, and then placed it back into Thomas’ hand.
“Good job, son,” he said, forcing Thomas to sit on the ground, facing away from the truck. Maggie sat beside him, she had been lead over by a fireman. She reached shyly for Thomas’ empty hand, he grabbed it without hesitation and squeezed it tightly.
The fireman was talking to Thomas, but he wasn’t hearing him. He turned briefly, to see another fireman struggling with Delilah’s car seat buckle. It was such a pain, he thought to himself, as he watched the fireman pull out a knife and cut it. The fireman tried to take his pulse. The fireman cupped his chin in one hand and made Thomas turn back around, then he was checking for pupil dilation with a little flashlight, and all of a sudden the tears started and there was nothing Thomas could do about it.
There were dozens of fireman and rescue workers running around, shouting orders, and taking the children’s vital signs. The rescue vehicles had their lights on and their diesel engines were idling noisily. Cars were still speeding by at highway speed, but Thomas heard none of it.
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