Friday, July 30, 2010

Death in North Fitzroy: Music, Mortality, Sleep

Another school concert last night. Although J has a jinx of having his name left off the program for such things, last night he played piano and bongo drums to accompany the junior girls' choir, sang solo with a friend on acoustic guitar (Red Hot Chilli Peppers' "Snow"), played cello in the vastly improved Camerata strings, and sang in the vocal group, taking a two-line solo. Plenty in the evening to gratify his parents' and grandparents' fond hearts. And just generally an excellent evening of music. Particularly affecting was the flute teacher's tribute to two year 12 students playing their last chamber music concert for the school, after six years of performing there — and winning prizes in national competitions, too. You could feel the generations swinging through the school.

Some of these kids will go on to start a career in music: the school has a strong record of such. Others will just always have music in their lives. Others will stop learning violin, and won't sing again after they leave school. But they will all have had that chance to make music together in a group, and to experience the terrors and pleasures of a loving audience.

I went to sleep instantly, as is the nature of this never-ending jetlag I'm still suffering. I've been waking on the dot of 4.30, and been unable to get back to sleep for thinking about the things I've been too tired to do during the day.

But last night at 2.00 I woke to a tremendous screech of brakes and a loud crash. I went downstairs and looked out to see a car crashed into a fence on the other side of the main road that runs at an odd angle from the house. The car's rear end was lifted a metre off the ground, its nose pointing down the garden bed near the bike path. I had the phone in my hand to call the ambulance, but then saw three or four taxis stopping (where did they all come from?), and people walking around calmly. I realised people were making calls, and I thought the people walking around had miraculously survived. So I went back to bed. I heard the sirens coming, then for another hour or two heard a low murmuring and rumbling. I assumed it was the tow truck struggling to lift the car out of the fence. I lay there, trying to sleep, refusing to get up again.

I woke, however, to the alarm clock radio speaking of two deaths in North Fitzroy. And at the same time the doorbell rang. Paul got there first and was faced with about eight people and several television cameras and very bright lights, asking had we seen or heard anything. P had not (he is a *very* good sleeper), but I started to stumble out my story, till I realised, and said, that I did not want to appear on TV, at which point they switched off the lights and went away. I've never liked those interviews with neighbours, especially since I know I'm not a brilliant eye-witness at the best of times. Besides, I was still in my dressing-gown...

But two people are dead. The driver of the stolen car was a 17 year old boy from Thornbury, two suburbs away, whose learner's licence had already been cancelled. His female passenger has not yet been identified. He was speeding, heading north, and lost control of the car, that must have then spun across the road and into the power pole, then tipped down the embankment. I hope it was instantaneous for them. I keep thinking of the sound of that dreadful screech of brakes: the last thing they heard; the terror of that moment; the shocking finality of such a death.

But it's hard not to be struck by the contrast between the proud parents of our school's beautiful young musicians, whom we took home safely in our cars, and the trauma of today for two other families. The age difference is minimal, and some of our kids will be out driving on these streets in a year or two. When they do, I think we won't be sleeping soundly till we hear them come home.

Update: well how annoying is this? I just checked a news website again to see my own face on the video footage. Clearly it's convenient enough for them not to show the bit where I say "I don't want to be on television". Hurrumph. Could I be bothered making a complaint? But you can catch a glimpse of the car. It's worse than it looked when I peered out the window; as it's clearly wrapped around the pole...

6 comments:

Nicole said...

Poor kids. Having two 17-year olds, my heart just leaps into my mouth when I hear about these accidents. The letting-go, the loss of control, is almost complete now and you just have to hope they will make it through the next stage, like we miraculously did.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

The cabs would have all been onto it via their radio networks -- just one cab within hearing distance would be enough.

I read about this online just a minute ago and the Age gave the exact location. Wondered whether you had had the journos and so on, but am very relieved to hear that at least you weren't first on the scene, which could easily have been the case. Dreadful story. I hope it hasn't shaken you all up too much. xx

Stephanie Trigg said...

Oh, well that makes sense about the cabs. Good on them for all turning up.

It *is* horrible. And I'm glad I didn't go out. But if no one else had turned up, I would have. I once had to move people off the road after a minor bingle. You know, they're just standing in the road, and you have to tell them to move somewhere safe. This would have been far worse. I once had a very cool and collected graduate student completely traumatised by seeing a decapitated body after a road accident on the Princes Highway between Melbourne and Geelong (a road you know well, I know).

Yeah, Nicole (Nici?); I'm not looking forward to that next stage one little bit...

Kim Wilkins said...

Hi, Stephanie. I saw the news article (and you) and that's why I came here. It's so awful. When I was in my senior year of high school, three close friends had a horrific car accident (similar to this one) and only one survived. These news articles bring it all back. Too real. Hope you're well.
Kim

Anonymous said...

Well you know who I am, but for what will be obvious reasons this is going to be anonymous. My own son came off a corner at speed and ended up in a ditch when he was a relatively new driver - and the car was full of his friends too. Thank God they were all OK - but just weeks earlier a similar crew had been killed on the same road.

He had not stolen the car and was not generally a reckless driver (though clearly that day he was) - but the figures for deaths of young drivers are frighteningly high and it is difficult to know what to do about that. Young men (maybe women) have so much power in so many ways and struggle to learn how and when to use it - whoever they are.

How do you gain wisdom without experience?

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

A traumatic experience, Stephanie, and I am sorry that it happened.

I worry almost obsessively about the safety of my own children and don't expect to sleep a wink once Alex starts to drive.