I wonder if, before they died, they ever felt the flames that blasted through the car.
They died at nearly midnight this past Saturday. Three people, in a vehicle heading east on a two-lane country road, could have been speeding. They crested a hill and plunged down the side, and the driver lost control — veered left — slammed into a tree that tore shuddering through metal — and bodies — and then came the flames.
Two died, the driver and her front passenger. Police told me they didn’t know how the woman in the back survived. Last I heard, she was doing better at the hospital.
Later a police officer showed me photos they took when the pile of shrapnel, once the car, had still been wrapped around the tree. Protruding from the vehicle’s near-center was the charred trunk. You might not think it could be that strong to survive, while two human beings had perished almost instantly. The officer pointed to parts of the blackened debris: one victim was here, and another here, he said. Even police haven’t seen many wrecks like this.
I had been bracing myself for a shocking sight. Perhaps the greatest shock was that it did not seem so shocking at all. All I saw was a steaming mass of metal wreckage.
Here is the crash scene, two days later. Flames had blazed across this tree, the crumpled car and the people inside. Now the crash wreckage is removed. Still remaining are the items strewn over the grassy side. Ash particles mingled with pieces of the car. I saw a bit of burned paper, tiny glass shards, a tangle of wires, a bulb from a headlight.
Someone had already placed artificial flowers and a small religious statuette against the tree. They join the three crosses near another tree some yards away, and another series of crosses I had already seen on this same road, a few miles back.
People have died here. And this is only a common road, not some rare disaster scene.
What killed these people?
The world killed them, a sad, groaning, suffering world of death.
Who were they? I found and wrote about the victims’ names, ages and the cities where they lived. But I don’t know about their lives. They weren’t from around here, so (this may sound very callous) those aspects of the story don’t matter as much to my local newspaper’s readers.
Yet they mattered to God. I hope to Him they were among His own. But even if they weren’t, they mattered to God. Their lives mattered. Their bodies mattered.
Lives and bodies were destroyed that day. They were strangers to me. Still, the truth is horrific.
But for those among His own, their lives and their bodies will return — just as He brought Himself back from death on that strange and glorious Sunday morning.
First He had to die. Sin required it.1 It was God’s will to crush Him.2 This was not God “murdering” Him as if from spite, like some people, even professing Christians, might think. The Son, God Himself, sacrificed His life for the greater joy set before Him 3, part of the eternal plan that had been put in place before the world’s foundation.4 It was even directly forecast moments after the first humans’ rebellious sin against God5 that brought death, groaning and suffering.
The world killed Him. Yet He even desired to die. And I am sure He felt all of the experience.
(Next: what might His death have been like?)