Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Beginning

I was born in 1967 and right from the beginning there was something different about me. I was the ninth and last child in our household and my arrival almost balanced up the girl-boy ratio between my five sisters and three brothers.

The striking difference however was in the nature of my arrival. My father was visiting my mother in the pre-labour ward when I suddenly decided to make an early arrival. With little prior warning and much to my dad’s shock and horror, out I popped right in front of him in the ward room.

Mum was a registered nurse so from an early age I held an interest in all things medical and for some reason, in fire engines as well.

As I grew older, the emergency services were definitely something I was interested in and I can clearly recall the first accident I ever came across at the intersection right outside our house. A motorcyclist on his way to work had been knocked over by a car and had broken his leg.

There was quite a little crowd gathered around the victim as the ambulance raced up Queens Drive with its headlights ablaze and red lights flashing. It was a modern vehicle for those times a Bedford ambulance but I don’t remember much else about it. I must have been about eleven or twelve.

The second accident I came across in Invercargill was just one year later and was far more serious. A train track repair machine, which was used to repair the rails and ballast, was steaming along the main trunk line and approached a rail crossing.

Tragically, despite the fact that there was almost a clear line of site from the road, it managed to collide with a school bus full of kids on their way home.

The impact swung the bus sideways careering kids out the side windows. The unfortunate front passenger, a young schoolgirl, was propelled through the front window and ended up under the train where she was instantly killed.

I was biking home from school when I came across it. The girl wedged under the train was the first thing I saw. The enormity of the situation hit me, and feeling it was inappropriate to stare I rode on to my dad’s work and proceeded to describe what I had seen. He was quite sympathetic and reassuring although I couldn’t rationalise my feelings at the time. It was a mixture of fascination and disgust.

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