Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another Miracle at Coltons Point?

What is it about this ancient site in Southern Maryland that is the birthplace of religious freedom in America, the site of the first Catholics in English speaking America, the site of the first Jesuits in the continental United States, the site of the first miracle in North America, and the site where the first relics of the Cross of Jesus were brought to the new continent?

This unknown sacred site on the banks of the Potomac came to the attention of the world last spring when the Pope made his first trip to America and St. Clements Island at Coltons Point was mentioned on worldwide television as the birthplace of Christianity in the new world.

Ever since the miraculous healing of the fatally sick son of the leader of the Native Americans back in 1634 when the first Jesuit, Father White, placed the relic of the Cross of Jesus on the dying boy and he came back to life things have been unusual.

Tornadoes hit all around Coltons Point but none hit here. Hurricanes devastate and flood the surrounding area of Maryland and Virginia but there is never much damage here. It was almost 400 years ago that two ships from England brought Christianity, religious freedom, Catholics and Jesuits to this site and things just haven't been the same since.

Our most recent miracle happened just this past Monday when I was driving back to Coltons Point after dropping Hillbilly Joe off at his job. Around 7:00 am I came around the turn by the Catholic Church and there were two cars smashed beyond recognition nearly in front of the church.

One sat crossways in the road and the other was down in a drainage ditch with the driver's door pinned against the earth. The damage was so extensive it was impossible to tell the make of either car. I could see a body hanging out of the car on the road and I pulled over and rushed to the scene.

Car parts were strewn over 100 feet from the point of the collision. There was fluid leaking and moaning coming from both cars. I yelled at a person standing in front of the church paralyzed by shock from the horrific sight to call 911 which she did.

While searching the wreckage site for any sign of fire as fluid was everywhere I propped the guy halfway out of the car up, checked him for bleeding or obvious injuries, and went into the ditch to see if anyone survived the car that had been thrown through the air.

There was a woman pinned behind the steering wheel and trapped in the car as both sides had been crushed in the wreck. She was delirious, but no major arteries had been cut and she was falling in and out of consciousness. To reach her I had to crawl down the ditch and pulled the air bags away from her.

At that point one other person had reached the site and we did what we could to watch for fires while keeping the victims awake and comfortable. In the meantime Father Gurney, the Catholic priest came out of the church and administered Last Rites to the two people as both clearly were on the verge of death.

The woman in the car finally went out stone cold while we were waiting for the emergency vehicles with the jaws of life needed to cut her out of the wreckage. Now the wreck took place in front of the church and the EMS and Fire Departments were less than a mile up the road.

Still it took 20 minutes for the first responders to respond. During that time a fire or injuries could have easily killed the victims as there was no way to get the woman out. It was the longest wait I experienced in my life.

When they did arrive the EMS vehicle seemed to have two young kids and a woman in her 20's and that was the emergency crew. There was a great deal of confusion even after they arrived on how to proceed when there really was no choice, the guy on the road was available to treat while the woman trapped in the ditch needed to be checked.

Within minutes there were several police cars, fire trucks and ambulances on the scene and a committee kept meeting on how to cut apart the car and save the woman who already seemed to be dead or at least knocking on death's door. When they finally started using the jaws of life they seemed to be taking the most difficult path to saving her as they decided to cut the entire roof off the car to get her out.

Twenty more precious minutes passes before they completed the mission and twice they had to stop cutting and use axes to try and smash the windshield loose and then to crease the roof so they could bend it back. Both times the jolt of the axes and debris from the blows had to be affecting the woman trapped under the roof.

Later I learned that early morning calls to our all volunteer EMS and Fire Departments are the most difficult to fill because most of the veteran officers are at their regular jobs and only a skeleton staff is left. Helicopters came and landed in the field by the school and flew the two victims to the nearest trauma center about an hour after the wreck.

As for the miracle? The seventy-four year old woman we thought might be dead returned to consciousness as they were pulling her out of the wreckage and she looked at Father Gurney and I and waved. When the helicopter got her to the trauma center the only injury they could find was a broken wrist and by the next day she went home. The guy was recovering as well.

If you looked at the cars you would have said no one could survive such a wreck as neither car could be identified in the tangled mess. A high-speed head-on collision left the vehicles obliterated and the occupants should have been crushed. The 20 minute wait for emergency crews with the woman trapped, gas leaking and sparks flying should have resulted in an explosion and fire. When she lost consciousness and the priest gave her the Last Sacraments there seemed to be no life force left in her. Yet she awoke, waved to us, then walked out of the trauma center the next day with only a broken wrist.

As for me, as the helicopter flew away I went home thinking the whole thing seemed like a dream sequence. The things that can happen before your first cup of coffee. Then CuChulainn, my Irish Wolfhound, explained to me that Coltons Point is a mystical and mysterious place indeed.

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