Sirens of Change

I can still here the sirens echoing in the background. The images of hysteria play back in my mind. To think, two decades have passed since then.

A warm and bright afternoon in July, my family from Boston had been in town visiting. It was always an exciting time when they came to visit. My aunt, an incredible cook of Colombia’s finest cuisine, my uncle the funniest and happiest man I had ever known. The two of them had two kids, my cousins, and for the most part we all got along pretty well. Leon was the oldest of the two and was awesome to hang around with. He treated me as his equal although he was 5 years older than I was. He had the humor of his father and the kind heart of his mother. Veronica, his sister, was only a couple year older than me, and by far, way cooler. Growing up, she was who I wanted to be. Anytime our families got together, my sister and I would tag along with her as if we were playing follow the leader. My sister, who was four at the time, followed because it was in her nature to. I followed because all I wanted to do was learn to be cool too.

On this particular day, my cousin Veronica and I were out in the yard laying on the grass, contemplating on what to do with our day. I was never the one out the the two of us to come up with any ideas for I never had any cool ones to come up with. I would take the backseat and follow her lead. This is why I was shocked when an innocent comment on my part, evolved into a moment that would change my life forever.

“I’m in the mood for some sour gummy worms.” I thought to myself out loud. Veronica shot up and mentioned what a great idea that was. “Wait, what idea??” I was clueless.

Instantly a plan was concocted to somehow obtain some money and head over to the store to buy ourselves some candy. Half of our plan was easy, getting to the store. We would just walk there. Sure, it was dangerous. We had to cross an intersection, four lanes of traffic flowing both ways, but all we needed to do was look both ways before we crossed. No biggie. The other half of our plan is what needed tweaking. How would we get money to buy candy? We couldn’t ask our parents. They’d want to know why we needed the money which would lead them to find out we were heading to the store. They’d never just let us walk there.

At that very moment her and I were brainstorming, a neighbor of mine pulls into her parking spot just a few doors down from where we lived. She was the nicest lady ever and I remembered back then I always wondered why she lived alone. That’s when I was struck by another “brilliant” idea. Apparently the second one of the day, I was on a roll. I explained to Veronica that all we had to is get the lady to chit chat with us, we would bring up the fact that it was our friend’s birthday and that we wanted to get to the store to buy her a birthday card and some candy but that we had no money. I was almost sure that the lady would give us some. I wasn’t sure if the plan was full proof but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

By mere luck, or very good acting, we had gotten the lady to donate $10 to the cause. After explaining to her that our parents never had money, her look of pity fell upon us, and due to the fact that she had nothing smaller than a 10 dollar bill in her wallet, let us have it in order to “make your friend happy”.

We couldn’t have grabbed the money any quicker when we heard my mom’s voice calling for us. I stashed the money in the pocket of my neon blue shorts as we walked up to our porch where my mother stood.

“There you two are,” she smiled. “Take your sister to play with you. But don’t go where I can’t keep an eye out for you.” I began to debate immediately. I didn’t want my sister to tag along. This was bull crap.

There’s no arguing with mom… ever. With a frown on my face and heavy stomps of my feet, the final signs of rebellion, the three of us headed down the steps, and only when my mother had gone back inside had we redirected ourselves towards the store.

The walk towards the store, reaching the intersection, those moments feel like a blur to me. Blurry snapshots of events that seem unimaginable, but that happened. One moment the three of us are giggling at nothing in particular, discussing what kind of candy we were all to get. The next moment, we’re almost to the intersection when my sister, who I was holding hands with at the time, pulls from my grasp and darts out and away from of me laughing playfully, her giggles still echoing in my ear.  The world slowed down at that very second.

A small blue car. High pitched screeching. A man runs up to me, he’s so blonde he looks like the sun, and he’s yelling.

“Where’s your mother????!!!…” and he then runs off again. I watch him to see where he runs to when I see the tiny little mound of flesh lying in the street that is my sister. She’s shouting out for my mom, her shouts then over powered by emergency sirens.

It was a miracle that my sister lived. I believe that the fact that she was so small is why she hadn’t been completely destroyed by a car that was going over 50 miles per hour. Her tiny body had been launched almost 50ft. She had broken both legs, lost most of her baby teeth, and had severe road rash to most of her body.

This phase of my life had been full of guilt and sorrow. So much so that today a lot of it still remains in the corners of my heart, shadowing the depths of my mind, only to be felt when I decide to let my guard down. It’s a pain that I will never truly lose for I feel as though I am a big reason as to much of the suffering my sister has had in the past. Even though I feel as though my sister is my twin soul and that our relationship with one another has been lived out through multiple past lives, creating much of the bond that we have today, I know that this tragic even that happened more than two decades ago has bonded us even tighter than we have ever been in any life before.

At the age of 8 is when I discovered tragedy and what it could mean for someone to lose a life. It had been the first time I got to experience first hand pure sadness and guilt knowing that I played a major part in someone  else’s physical and emotional pain. Trauma has made its way into my mind and has camped there for years. Today it’s hard for me to causally cross a street without imagining death lurking there, waiting for me.Today I still cope with what happened all those years ago with flashbacks and anxiety. Still it is a moment in life that I am grateful to have gone through, because no matter how much pain it’s dressed up in, there is a good that is greater than all the darkness it has shadowed. A beautiful light that was bestowed upon a horrific disaster. It took my sister over a year to fully recover. Today she is the most beautiful and loving person I know. She radiates the room when she walks into it with her smile. Today you would never even have imagined that she went through such an ordeal.  Today I am blessed to have her.

040-2 Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Muse: Natal Galvan, Angie M.