As the truck was rolling over, I remember the sound of breaking glass and crushing metal…that sort of moan that metal can sometimes make when it is crumpling. I felt like I was being tossed around the cab like a rag doll. Neither of us were wearing a seat belt. I was propelled out the passenger side window and came to rest several yards from the truck on top of the spare tire. I am not sure how long I was unconscious, but it was long enough that as I came to, the dust and debris were starting to settle. I had glass and dirt in my mouth. I could not move at first and my left leg was bent back in the middle of my thigh. The pain from that was immediate and searing, not to mention the sight of it. I was desperately calling for my brother, screaming a sort of guttural cry, over and over and then silencing myself in the hopes that I would hear his response.
I was wearing a navy blue t-shirt with a pocket on the chest. I began to pat myself down, looking for bleeding. And there was bleeding, from my elbow, from my leg, and from my head. Even though I knew my leg was in bad shape (it was not a compound fracture), the blood from my head scared me more. I ripped off the pocket of my t-shirt and held it to my head applying as much pressure as I could muster. There were shards of glass in my elbow. I heard what I thought was moaning and thought my brother must have been thrown, too, on the other side of the truck, obstructed from my view. Then I heard what sounded like pounding as if maybe he was trying to kick the door out instead or was pounding on the roof of the cab. I made a move to get off the tire and crawl to the wreckage but the pain from my leg was so intense it sent me into shock.
It was nearing 100 degrees in the August heat and it was beating down on me. There was only dirt and gravel around me; not one bush or tree for shade. I was parched beyond belief. One of the Dr. Pepper cans was a few feet away, but try as I might to reach it it was just beyond my grasp. The creaking metal and the pounding stopped. My mind could not grasp what had happened to my brother but I wanted to believe he was on the other side of that truck.
I began to panic. I was eleven years old. I was alone in the middle of nowhere in the summer heat, in shock, with nothing to drink. I was badly broken and bleeding. I worried about rattle snakes but I worried more that no one would come. Other than us, no one frequented that road. There would be no need for anyone to be traveling along it. And since we had the truck and were several miles from the ranch, it would take some time for my great uncle or grandma to come looking for us. And, how long would they give us, anyway, before they started to worry? And, how would they find us? I had to will myself not to become hysterical. But I had to summon help or I was afraid I was going to die.
I could see the heat emanating from the asphalt highway in the distance. The few cars that were traveling it looked like toys they were so far away. I looked around again and saw a fly swatter that must have been in the back of the truck. I knew I had to get it and was willing to risk the pain to do so. I reached and clawed for it until finally I was able to grab it. I took off my t-shirt and tied it to the swatter and began waving it like crazy in a vain attempt to flag someone down. I was hysterical now, crying and screaming and willing someone to see me.
I had no concept of time and I am not sure I was always conscious. Minutes ticked by. Fifteen, then thirty. Forty five? If someone didn’t find me, I thought I would bleed to death, right there, on that tire in the dirt. And then something caught my eye. It looked like a dust cloud from a car traveling on the dirt road. I squinted in the sunlight not sure if I was seeing things. I was so dizzy from the heat and shock that I thought I might be hallucinating. But yes, there it was, a car coming toward us. Oh my God! Would they see me? We were sort of in a ditch to the side of the road. What if they drove past? The thought of that happening scared me into action. I propped myself up as high as I could on that tire, I grabbed the swatter with my t-shirt still attached and I waved it while screaming for help.
I heard the car slow down as it approached the scene. I could no longer see it because it was behind an embankment but I heard gasps and cries and doors opening and footsteps quickening. There were four or five people descending on me. I don’t remember anyone speaking to me but I remember saying, “My brother, my brother, please help my brother!”. Someone stayed with me while the others approached the truck. There was a jack from the back of the truck and they used it to jack up the truck. When they started to do that, I knew that meant my brother must still be inside. That meant that the moaning and pounding I once heard must have been him. Someone moved to blocked my view and another said, “Don’t let her see”, but not before I saw the man with the jack shake his head. And I knew. I knew right then that my brother was gone. And I knew in that moment that my life would never be the same.