The Length of a Football Field
Ellie was twelve years old last September, Twelve years old and finally a fifth grader. She was 5’ 1”, wore a size 6 shoe, And her favourite chapstick tasted like cotton candy. Ellie had a dream in her heart, A bright unmolested passion To be and simply be. Oh to be, Just to be. To exist and to love, And to hate, And to be on Earth, alive. She wanted to experience the world for a long, Long time. Ellie was filled with a certain luminosity; Even at twelve, she knew life was a beautiful, precious thing. Perhaps it was because she was twelve That she could see things so clearly. She told her mother she was scared; Scared to die, Scared that she would disappear before she could grow up. She said she was scared in the same tone she would have used To point out a spider inching along the ceiling: A privilege that never should have been taken from her. An intrinsic but not fully realized grasp of death; A token given to those with limited life experience. Nostalgia crept over her mother as she said, “Ellie, don’t be afraid. You won’t die for a long, Long time.” I wonder if she thought deeply before responding. I wouldn’t have; Experience tells me that children should not fear death, Should not know death in its penultimate form, Until they have a reason to. Ellie should not have to recognize its cruelty. Ellie should not have had to meet death before she witnessed it In a funerary urn Or the eyes of a beloved grandparent. She should not have been wrenched, gasping, From this earth for a long, Long time. She couldn’t see- Thank god she couldn’t see- The light as it struck her mother, The fender as it erased her own consciousness, Dashing fragments of memories, Of a life like a sparkler- Short and vibrant- Across the pavement. She couldn’t see the doors crunching in towards her, Or the windows aching into millions of lights, Speckling the black road like stars. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t see that she was leaving, And it hadn’t been a long, Long time. The driver saw. He saw the hood collapsing over itself, The wheels as they tipped and stuttered into one another. He saw the road shift and move as he looked up from his phone. He saw the stoplight he rolled through, The one he thought was so far ahead that he could type out one response to a text. The road was clear. The car wasn’t even going that fast. The length of a football field; Passed up in five fateful seconds. He saw Ellie’s mother as realization broke across her face, And he watched as she turned to face her child, Colliding, Losing blood, breath, and sand from their hourglasses, When they should have remained pristine for a long, Long time.
This poem relays the striking and sobering reality of distracted driving. Drivers believe they are doing the right thing by “cautiously” driving while doing other things as well; checking to make sure they have enough space to type “real quick”, brush their hair, etc., and they often believe it’s perfectly fine to do so. I feel like we desensitize ourselves from uncomfortable topics like the death of children, especially in incidents like these. I gave readers a name, a personality, a sweet girl named Ellie to mourn. Ignore a story all you want; naming the victim always brings reality to the table.