Tragedy struck our quaint little community of Voorheesville, N.Y. last Wednesday, when an SUV driven by a local resident careened out of control and killed three women who were waiting outside a church to go on a walk.
I first learned about the accident when my friend Diana called at 10:30 a.m. “Thank God, you’re there!” she said when I picked up the phone. “I was terrified when you didn’t answer my email.” She told me that there had been a bad accident outside a church in town, and knew nothing except three people were killed.
Shaking, I called my friend Peggy who works at the church. Her daughter told me she was inside, but not hurt. Residents of the village held our collective breath and waited for police to contact next of kin, so they could release the names.
As it turned out, none of the victims lived here. But for those of us who do, the accident has been deeply upsetting and a sad reminder that some things in life happen for no good reason.
I am among the regular walkers in our village. The church where the accident occurred is located on one of the routes that my dog Loki and I frequently take. Most days, we stroll by there and see no one. Absolutely no one.
But this morning was different. A group of walkers with the Volkssport Association had come to here to walk. It was a glorious day filled with sunshine and blue skies, the kind of morning where nothing bad could possibly go wrong.
One of the walkers had gone inside the church to use the rest room, when the SUV came barreling down the road. The driver had just dropped off her foster child at the elementary school and was heading home when she says the sandal she was wearing got lodged behind the gas pedal. Her car accelerated, and she plowed into the church vestibule, where a small crowd was standing. Some of the people got out of the way. Three of them did not. The county sheriff said he had never seen anything so horrific.
The accident added up to a bad mix of events. Why on this day was there a group outside the church when there almost never is? Why had the organizers chosen this day to walk? Why on that morning, did the driver choose to slip on her husband’s sandals instead of putting on her own? How could this possibly have happened at a church?
It’s disturbing to think that I had been contemplating a walk down there that morning. Would Loki and I have been struck? Or gotten out of the way in time to avoid getting hit? Would the victims have come over to see Loki, in which case we might have saved their lives?
There is no possible way to explain this tragedy. My heart breaks for those families whose loved ones were killed. I also can’t imagine the agony, regret and sadness the driver must feel. It’s something that will surely haunt her for the rest of her life. It’s certainly something most of us will never forget.