I can vividly remember one moment of my life when fear seemed to be breathing down the back of my neck, as it lingers in my memories. The fear for a friend, is one of the worst kinds of fears…
With the sun still shining brightly in the evening sky, I, a seven-year-old second grader at the time, decided to ride my bike around the neighborhood on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Following the stonewall that surrounded my neighborhood, I found myself riding up to the inconsiderable park which I called “The Pony Park” due to the single bouncy horse that rested beside the only slide. I usually met with my friends here, but didn’t expect to this evening.
How was I to know that this would be the most fearful night of my life?
After throwing my bike to the side, I climbed atop the roof that covered the humble slide and surveyed my surroundings. Soon, I discovered my daring friend, Andy Hampton, riding his back between the two hills near the back of our neighborhood where the wall did not entirely enclose it. Nestled in the bottom of the “U” that the hills appeared to create rested a road the led to Medina Air Force Base, obscured by the tall, leafy bushes that grew atop the hill, nearest the houses.
My friend, Andy, was searching for thrills as he forced his bike down one hill, up the other, and back down again along with another person that I didn’t know. In a few moments, I jumped to the ground with a thud, quickly grasped my handlebars pulling my bike up, and met up with him.
“Hey, Andy!” I called out.
My friend pedaled down from the opposite hill and came up the hill that I was standing upon. “Oh hey, Noelle!”
“What are you doing?” I asked him.
“Just riding my bike,” he replied before zooming off once more. It sure looked like fun, and I was thinking of joining him.
At the time, Andy was one of my best friends, and we pulled off some wild stunts. Andy has rapped, shirtless, on top of the roof covering the picnic area of “The Lion Park,” actually drawing a crowd, with me sitting beside him, has rode his bike along with me off of a stone cliff trying not to hit my neighbor’s house right next to it, and was always trying to accomplish difficult skateboarding tricks without skinning his face off. He had even dared me to do a stunt once that trashed my bike, but that was nowhere as horrible as this time. Andy was a daredevil at heart and loved to feel his heart pump wildly as he ventured for thrills.
Tonight, he was going to find one.
I stood atop the hill, a witness to the upcoming event. Andy Hampton remounted his bike beside me and pushed off with his foot, his bike aimed downwards. As his bike gradually gained momentum, he smiled and laughed down the hill with his short, blonde hair blowing frantically in the wind. He pedaled as fast as his legs would allow and was traveling faster than any other time before. Maybe if he knew this would be the last time he would feel the rush down the hill, he wouldn’t have done it…
Suddenly, all thoughts escaped from my mind as a car emerged from the bushes, just as Andy was about to cross the road and ride up the opposite hill. I noticed Andy slam on his brakes trying to avoid a collision, but found that his speed was too great. There was a blur as he crashed into the front of the car with a sickening, metal-screeching sound. I watched breathlessly as the collision happened so quickly. It had all happened so fast that I was unsure of what to do. I opened my mouth to scream, but surprisingly no sound came. A hard, dry knot had formed within my throat making it very difficult to breath, and my body seemed to freeze from fright.
As I came back to my senses, I dropped my bike to the ground and stumbled down the side of the hill to the scene of the crash. I panicked, my entire body shaking rapidly, my heart thumping vigorously inside me, and my breaths coming sudden and tight. My thoughts were racing through my head, confusing me and leaving me in a daze.
Andy was sprawled across the road beside the car with his bike lying over him, crushing him beneath it. Somehow, his legs were twisted in the tires in a very painful-looking position. Tangled around his legs were the metal spokes that normally helped the tire keep its shape. I gagged in disgust as I found that some of the spokes were actually piercing through my friend’s right leg, spilling blood and staining the shiny, metallic silver. Crimson stained his clothes and his bike, continuing to flow from his wounds. I couldn’t imagine how the doctor’s were going to repair his mangled legs.
Andy’s face was red with pain and fear as tears poured from his clenched eyes. He screamed in agony and tried to push the heavy bike off of him, but was unable to. The horrible feeling of guilt continued to overcome me and I wanted to do something to help. I frantically looked over him and grabbed the bike, planning to pull it off of him. The moment I clenched the tires within my hands, the lady who had emerged from her car and was now calling 911 on her cell phone screamed at me to leave it be. “There’s nothing you can do until the ambulance arrives,” she said to me.
Moments later, sirens were blaring in the distance. It made me think that hope was out there but not quite in reach until the sirens gradually grew louder, reminding me that everything could be fine and that hope could be found. Soon, the normally empty street was filled with two ambulances, two fire trucks, and three police cars. Paramedics and firefighters quickly fled from their vehicles and swarmed over my friend like bees on a flower. A policeman approached me and escorted me to the top of the hill where my bike still rested. I watched helplessly as firefighters began to saw Andy’s bike into pieces and paramedics were busy trying to save his legs. I felt a few tears trickle down the side of my face as I quietly tried to cope with my racing thoughts.
The policeman was still beside me and began to ask me questions about the accident. I answered them, almost in a daze, unable to avert my eyes from the bottom of the hill. Andy’s horrid screams were still piercing through my mind, reminding me that I was there, he was hurt, and I was unable to do anything. “Were you the only one here when it happened?” the cop asked me, shaking me from my thoughts.
Suddenly I remembered Andy’s other friend was there and scanned the chaos for him. “No,” I began, “there was somebody else that I didn’t know-There he is!” I had found the other kid running through the neighborhood on the other side of the wall. He was running away from it all…
“Where are your parents?” he asked a few minutes afterwards.
“They’re probably back at home, over there,” I answered, pointing down the street towards my house.
“Can you get them?”
In an instant I had scooped up my bike and was pedaling down the street as fast as I could, gasping for air and nervously thinking over what I was going to tell my parents. After reaching my house, I threw my bike on my lawn and burst through the front door, finding my parents on the couch in the living room. I told them the news through gasps and tears, and my dad ran back to the scene with me, my mom staying home with my younger, four-year old brother.
After meeting up with the cop from earlier, I found that the other policemen were now busy trying to keep the neighbors on top of the hill. Once again, I was flooded with questions as my dad surveyed the chaos around me.
Hours later, paramedics were placing Andy onto a stretcher and wheeled him into the back of an ambulance. Firefighters were finished with their work and left also, leaving behind the shredded metal that used to be Andy’s bike. After the crowd began to leave and the excitement was ending, some of the policeman brought out some white chalk and traced around where the car was and where Andy had landed after the collision.
Why were they doing that? Was Andy going to live? Could I have done something to save him? My mind panicked as the terrifying questions and thoughts swirled in my worries. I felt nervous bits of sweat trickle down my forehead as I continued to shake in fear.
It was three hours later when the policeman asked the final question and asked my father and me to come to the police station later. My dad and I were the last ones to leave the scene, with guilt still drilled inside me. I was sure that there was something that I could have done…I took one final look down the hill glancing at the scrap of metal at the side of the road along with the gray mat that Andy had been placed on. The car was still on the street and the chalk traces still lied there, burning the question of “Death” in my mind, along with the blood, staining the tar.
My night wasn’t over until long after I had returned from the questioning at the police station, yet I couldn’t shake the thoughts from my mind. Andy was going to live, right?
After the terrible crash, the base continued the stonewall that surrounded our neighborhood with a chain metal fence and mowed down the leafy vegetation that had covered the road in a veil. To my relief, my friend, Andy Hampton, returned to school the following Monday with a bad limp and his right ankle in a small cast. He explained that he had the most boring weekend in the hospital without any thrills and that he had only come out with a sprained ankle and scarred legs. I laughed to myself when Andy told the story at school leaving out the parts where he cried and screamed and of course throwing in that he liked the pain. He told everybody that he would definitely do it again without changing a thing, and he was only disappointed that his bike was trashed and that he was grounded for months. What a guy!