A specter in the night sky looked like something from an ancient picture of Michael the Archangel descending to earth while outlined by a glow. Hundreds of people driving along I-10 slightly east of Lafayette gawked at the sight.
Instead of promising salvation, the object may have been a savior as it lowered to the scene of the crash. With each second the line of vehicles screeching to a halt along the interstate grew longer. By now it probably stretched past Lafayette and was building up toward Lake Charles.
Feeling claustrophobic – and also curious – I got out from the van’s passenger side and walked alongside the other stopped vehicles, each with someone wanting to know what was happening. Obviously there had been an accident, but how bad? Who better to ask than truck drivers who are always connected to the world along the roads? “It was a motorcycle,” one said. “No word on the condition of the victim.
By the time I delivered the news to my fellow travelers, the light in the sky was ascending. It was a marvelous vision of a glow having come to the rescue and now rising rapidly, if not toward the heavens, to a Lafayette hospital.
Stopped traffic does not start moving all at once. It does so in spurts as each row builds up in acceleration. The incident had cost us about 45 minutes but at least we were moving again.
To this day, I do not know what happened to the motorcyclist but he must have survived. Death on the highway would have certainly earned a headline, but there was nothing in the news media. No matter what happened, to be in an accident on an interstate while riding a motorcycle must be frightening enough to warrant a ride to an emergency room. Just surviving while vehicles whiz by is damn near miraculous.
What surprised me the next day when I tried to learn more about the accident is just how many such incidents there are, on any given day. When I Google-searched “I-10 motorcade accident” there was a list of incidents not just in Lafayette but across the long stretch of the highway from Florida to California. Statistically the incidents are few but the reality of a motorcycle crashing on roads designed for speeding vehicles is quite real. The riders on the bikes don’t seem to have much of a chance, especially the further away they are from a city and the longer the distance a helicopter has to travel. What if the accident occurs on a bridge or tressel where a copter cannot land?
Louisiana once had a governor, Mike Foster, who loved to ride the bikes. There were stories of Friday afternoons after work when he would leave the governor’s mansion and putter home to Franklin – a state police sedan was always a polite distance behind. Motorcycles evoke the free spirit as man rides through the elements. As the testosterone kicks in there must be a primal feeling of freedom, power and being at one with the outdoors – until there is a bump in the road.
I know that not many of you, our readers, ride motorcycles, especially on interstates, but maybe you know someone who does or who might. I remember the sight of the helicopter hurriedly disappearing into the darkness.
It is better to be safe than to have to be saved.