I am not a writer, I consider myself a thinker. So, I’m not always the best when putting my thoughts on paper. Spelling, punctuation, and just the whole process pains me. So please excuse it all. I’m not an editor and these are just my raw thoughts. Never was the best English student and my high school teachers would agree I am sure. However the thoughts I had today as I traveled Highway 63 this morning and this evening again I feel need to be written and shared. It was a whole new experience for me on the infamous “Highway of Tears”. I held back my own at times.
Let me start at the beginning of my journey today. I started my trip early this morning at approx.. 7am. I fueled up my truck as per usual and purchased my coffee and a few other items for the trip ahead. My Brother, the youngest of my siblings was sitting next to me as my co-captain. As we hit the last set of lights heading southbound I reflected on the past month of my life. All of the things I had learned and accomplished. The conversations my simple little Facebook group sparked, and how I myself was now a different person because of it all. I watched as many drivers passed me at speeds I know were in excess of the limit of the road. I counted wide loads in which I had to give my lane to on 8 different occasions; I was just too small in comparison to compete for space. On one occasion I slowed to an almost stop as I watched a car traveling north bound attempt to pass one of the wide loads and within inches cleared the car in the oncoming lane, the car in front of my own.
I found myself searching for crosses on the roadside. Trying to put faces to each wooden object somebody’s loved one placed there in hopes their mother, brother, sister, father, daughter, grandchild, or friend would not be forgotten. In hopes I am sure, that somebody would notice and think twice about the consequences of their actions when sharing the road with others. At times I was reminded of driving to a cemetery. You go there almost hoping to see your loved one and are greeted by flowers, a cross, a headstone and your own thoughts of the person whom these objects now represent. I thought of all the people who took to the highway to enjoy family time this weekend camping, visiting loved ones, or just getting away for some relaxation. The only way to get to their desired destinations is by travelling a road that has left so many families with nothing but a memory.
And here I am. In the midst of it all. Traveling with my own family to go visit my sister. I felt as though I was caught in the moment of impact of so many accidents that cost the lives of people just like my brother and I. We were no different. We could very well be the next headline tragedy of Highway 63.
I suppose I was angry at this point that such thoughts traveled through my head. It angered me that somebody I love could only be reached by traveling this deadly road. That somebody was looking at her watch waiting for me to arrive. As did the families of so many others, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a loved one, only to be greeted with tragedy. They are left with the memories they had. No opportunity for one last hug, one final laugh, one more time to tell them that they are loved.
Each time my phone rang it was my Fiancée, Sister, or Mother checking up to see what our progress was. Where we were exactly? how much further did we had to travel? How is the weather? All thinking the same thoughts as I, but neither of us would dare to speak the words, what if.
I made it to my destination, safe and sound. Packed up what was needed, grabbed a bite to eat, played catch up with my little sister, and headed in reverse. Starting my second trip of the day back up highway 63 with my sister and brother this time following behind. I have to say I was ok for the first few hours. Pushing what ifs out of my head and focusing on the trailer I had now tagging along behind me. And as if it was all brand new to me again, when I approached highway marker 71 I took notice of a cross I missed this morning. Each marker after that became the same game as before. How many crosses? How many loved ones? How many families affected?
I constantly checked my mirror watching my 2 younger siblings follow behind me. Having spoken to them at the start of our trip not to pass me and to follow my lead. I became defensive of each car traveling southbound as we made our way back north. I thought how was I going to protect them if one of these drivers decided to take their fate into his or her hands. What if my sister traveled too close behind me? What if oncoming traffic could not see them? What if something like the tragedy of April 27th happened again? What if it was today? What if this time I would be the person placing a cross alongside so many others hoping they would not be forgotten. I considered my actions each time I watched a car move closer to us. I guided my sister into the shoulder when I felt the vehicle passing was staying in my lane for just a second too long. I thought of defensive moves I might have to make to protect them should one of these vehicles not move back into their own lane.
I then came upon marker 88. I knew that less than a month ago, 2 groups of individuals in the same place, around the same time of day, faced these same thoughts. Now, they too are remembered by a cross and a small purple wreath, laid directly upon the still blacked earth, where their lives too early ended.
I challenged myself on what else could be done to protect all the precious cargo on 63. I drove the rest of the trip in complete silence. No music, no talking, left alone with my own thoughts. Keeping constant watch on the car behind me carrying my family and thinking that I would do anything to make sure they did not have to be laid to rest on the side of Highway 63.
“How can you sleep when you know they lost everything, the silent scream it keeps me awake” – Mackinzie Walas