South Africa 2012
How foolish are we to think for one second that we are in control of our lives. That we decide, plan or choose anything.
We were late, not at all on schedule; the day was not going according to plan already, not our plan at least. I had been in Zambia for 2 weeks and was looking forward to a relaxing weekend spent with familiar faces. A group of us had planned to go to a game park for a picnic and swim. The ride that was coming to pick us up early Friday morning did not arrive until around 12 in the afternoon. We had planned on leaving early in the morning, it didn’t bother me at all though, it just gave me more time to get to know the team. A team from the UK had arrived earlier in the week, consisting of 3 young adults and 3 middle-aged volunteers, all wonderful people who accompanied us to the park. In my vehicle were Etienne and Rani along with their 3 children, Dominique, Hedassah, and 4-year-old Joshua. Etienne and Rani are long time volunteers who live in Zambia. Bentley and Alisha as well as my roommate Mel were also in the car. Adam, who serves hands in DRC, was in the vehicle with the team. After much delay we set off on our hour-long drive to the park, which turned into a lot longer of a treck as we took take a major detour to get some Petro. We finally made it to the park very hungry and spent our day in the sun, picnicking, swimming and enjoying everything God made. Wrapping up our day we decided to go for a drive to see some animals, that’s when all the delays started which apparently weren’t delays at all, just Gods plan unfolding.
First we couldn’t find Etienne, he went on a walk and was taking a while, and then we waited for Bentley and Alisha to return the canoe we had rented and to change out of their wet clothes. We finally decided to leave without Etienne and come back to look for him after our drive. We saw the beautiful giraffes and other animals and returned after about an hour, only to find Etienne had not returned, and the team in the car behind us had stopped a ways back to look at a tree and take some pictures. After another half hour delay we were together again and ready to leave the park… But not before dropping by the owner of the parks house, to play with her new lab puppies.
When we finally left, the moon was rising, full and yellow, as the sun gracefully descended. We started to get comfortable in our seats, knowing we were in for a long ride home. Joshua snuggled up on my lap; I turned on my iPod to a calming folk tune, let out a sigh, satisfied and content with that after beach day feeling.
We were speeding down the highway when I saw it. The events that transpired for the next four hours seemed to happen in the blink of an eye and in slow motion. Far down the road I saw the brightest, biggest raging fire. It blocked the road completely; we were the first car in line behind it, first on the scene. A passenger bus carrying about 60 people collided head on with a truck. Which would have been horrible enough as it was, but the truck was carrying canisters of gasoline. Upon initial impact, which we were only 2 minutes away from witnessing, some people panicked and jumped out the bus windows, breaking through glass and falling on the hard cement, they were the ones we tried to save, they were the lucky ones, the others were left to burn alive on the bus.
Once we took in the image of the bright burning bus we reacted, Etienne ran towards the flames to see if there were any survivors. This sent the children into hysterical crying and panic. Mel and I did what we could to keep them calm. Rani, who was driving, moved toward the blaze, that’s when the explosions began. The fire started to catch the scattered canisters of gas. I have never been more afraid, the sight and the sound is hard to describe, so loud and bright like an atomic bomb. Each blast followed by screams filled with fear. I began to pray saying over and over again, “you are in control, you are in control, you are in control”. Our vehicle emptied and within seconds and without words we all took a role. Without direction or discussion we moved. Knowing we couldn’t rely on emergency service and we were in a remote area and TIA (This is Africa), some of us became police, some paramedics, traffic control and whatever else was needed. People were scattered all around the road, desperate and battered, it looked and sounded like a war zone with the explosions continuing in the distance.
My role was comforter. I stayed in the car with the kids, praying and singing songs over the boom of the raging fire. We began to bring people into our cars, those who were badly injured we treated as best we could and sent in vehicles to the nearest hospital, which was a grueling hours drive away. The rest we treated and tried to calm down. We prayed with them, tried to keep them warm and prevent them from going into shock. I held a woman who was traumatized and whaling in one arm and Joshua in the other, who was calm and strong, showing no signs of a scared four-year-old boy.
God supplied us with everything we needed, enough blankets, towels and painkillers to go around. He supplied us with peace, strength and courage.
We prayed, treated wounds, directed and listened for what felt like a short time, a flash, a dream, when we finally left in was midnight and the ambulance had arrived to take back those who did not survive.
I was shaken. I was speechless, in awe. I could not believe the timing of it all. If things had gone slightly different, had we not been delayed so many times, we could have been 2 minutes closer and involved in the accident in very different way.
I slept and woke up in a state of disbelief, did that really happen? It wasn’t a disturbing and horrible dream? A movie?
It felt like a slap in the face, a wake up call. How could I have ever been so arrogant as to think that for even one second I am in control of my life? He decides our coming and going. He is in control.
God orders the footsteps of the righteous man.
Originally posted to South Africa 2012