John Bartus

This past Tuesday, there was a very bad accident on U.S. 1 near the entrance to Fiesta Key Campground on Long Key. It was a three-vehicle crash with serious injuries, and traffic was understandably backed up for quite a while in both directions as a TraumaStar helicopter airlifted victims out.

Once again, our first responders served admirably. Thanks and appreciation go to our Monroe County sheriff’s deputies, as well as the Fire and EMS workers who responded. They are the ones who save lives routinely and call it all in a day’s work. 

In this particular accident, a Dodge Ram pickup truck and a box truck hit each other head-on, with a third vehicle running into the mangroves. Photos of the accident scene — especially the Ram truck — make a person wonder just how anyone could have survived that crash. It also gives one pause to reflect on how something like this can change the course of several lives in one instant.

I’m sure that no one involved in this accident woke up that morning planning on a major accident. They were just people going about their business, getting through their days, when the accident happened. There’s an old saying that goes, “Man plans; God laughs.” This accident is just an example of how things can change in an instant.

What are we to do? The possibility that life can take a drastic turn in the blink of an eye makes our actions in the here and now perhaps a bit more significant. Deepak Chopra once said, “For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity and laughter.”

Those of you who may have been expecting another of my “bad driver” columns are bound to be disappointed in this week’s missive. Seeing the photos of that horrific accident juxtaposed with the beautiful sunny day in the Keys left me in a more philosophical mood. Blue skies and mangled wreckage aren’t good bedfellows.

So how do we make sense out of this in our lives? Many will likely not give it a second thought — other people’s problems and so on. And because things like this thankfully don’t happen to all of us, we can choose to ignore it and put it aside.

As life goes on and one grows older, time seems to go faster and faster. As a kid, I remember seemingly endless summer afternoons that dragged on languorously, and interminable school classes that just wouldn’t end. Now, I never have enough time to do the things I want to do. Yet there are still the same 24 hours in every day. A second is still a second; an hour is still an hour.

But then, life happens. Things change. Friends and loved ones move on or pass away. The things we all thought would never end … well, they end — often, with little or no warning. Just go back to the beginning of the year 2020: who would have thought that our world would change so much in a matter of weeks? As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Life is a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it.”

But there are things we can do — perhaps the only things we can do as life happens. As “A Guide to the Good Life” author William Braxton Irvine wrote, “By contemplating the impermanence of everything in the world, we are forced to recognize that every time we do something could be the last time we do it, and this recognition can invest the things we do with a significance and intensity that would otherwise be absent. We will no longer sleepwalk through our life.”

I believe that being kind to ourselves and each other is important. Instead of spending so much time repeating rumors and outright misinformation on social media, how great would it be if we could channel that energy in creating something good? Something that might make a difference?

As I think about the victims of today’s accident who didn’t plan on their day ending this way, I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

“May you live all the days of your life.” – Jonathan Swift

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