Wish They Were Here

Last Thursday at approximately 10:30 pm a motorcycle carrying Wilson and Mery Mendez and their two young sons Gino and Josue, was struck by a SUV traveling at high speed on one of the main roads through Ojochal.

photo by Susanne Jenner Thomas
photo by Susanne Jenner Thomas

The driver of the SUV (a resident ex-pat) continued to accelerate, dragging the bike and it’s passengers over rough, unpaved terrain before leaving them behind. Mery and Gino died on the scene. The driver was arrested by local police at his home shortly after. He was clearly drunk.

News of the accident shocked the town. All of us knew one or more of the people involved. More than that, we all knew what it felt like to drive a little too fast on our dirt roads, to turn a dark corner and see a family walking in your path, how common it is for locals to carry their kids around on motorcycles and in the back of pick up trucks and how often people drive home drunk from the bar.

A sickening question began to arise. If the conditions for such an accident are present every single day, do we not accept those conditions and therefore do we not accept the consequences?

Just as shocking as the news of the tragedy was realizing at some level that this was inevitable and, perhaps at some level, all of us were culpable.

People get upset when they hear how car manufacturers anticipate the number of deaths and resulting lawsuits in their cost of doing business. How dare they take our lives for granted(!) we think and yet we buy and use those cars trusting it won’t be us included in that calculation. We trust that people can look out for themselves and that the system, our reflexes and perhaps God will protect us.

In spite of knowing the dangers we get used to the way things are. Rural roads don’t have sidewalks. Driving faster gets me there quicker. Poor families use whatever means of transportation they have. Drunk people need to get home too.

Last night a memorial was held on the soccer field in town. Friends and neighbors lit candles as the local Pastor asked us to pray for the deceased and the recovery of Wilson and Josue who remain in hospital.

Though terribly sad, it felt good to mourn together. I only wish more ex-pats had shown up.

On second thought I wish Mery and Gino had too.