I ran over to him. He was crying and yelling that he didn’t want to die. I told him he was going to be fine. I took off the Miraculous Medal I wear around my neck, put it around his, and said the Lord’s Prayer. After I had said this, he quit crying and was calm.
I looked close at his injuries and I saw that both of his legs were torn up, with compound fractures from his ankles to his thighs. Skin was pulled up and torn away. All of the raw flesh on his legs was visible, and his bones were broken and splintered. There was a small puddle of blood about 4 inches in diameter on the street -- not a whole lot for how torn up, literally, this boy looked. He was calm though, lying down in the middle of the street. Most cars were just driving by us; I found that strange. But someone stopped and gave me a blanket to put over him and said she’d called for an ambulance.
I started talking to him. I asked him his age; he said he was 12. I asked him what kind of things he liked doing besides riding his bike, and we laughed a quick chuckle. He said he really likes fishing, and I told him that I did too.
A little later he said that his legs were hurting, and he wanted to see them. Knowing this would surely throw him into shock, I said, no, they’re ok, just a little scratched up. In my mind, I was thinking, if you live through this, you’ll surely lose both legs. He was ok with my response and laid back again. Seconds later, the ambulance arrived, and I left him alone with the paramedics.
I was really shook up over this. It was bad, and I was doubting I could drive a truck again. I went home and tried to relax, but to no avail. I went to speak to a priest at my church. Father Rafeal Labrea met me at the door of the rectory. I went in and told him about what just happened, thinking he was going to give me a huge spiel about who knows what, and everything would be better. Only thing is, Father was a very quiet and modest man. He looked at me, and told me, “Phil, just ask God to take away the pain.” That was it! I’m thinking, what the hell??? That’s it?? That’s not going to do me any good. I asked if he had anything better. I was angry that that’s all he could come up with. I felt like I had just wasted my time, and felt very let down. Again he said. “Phil, ask God to take away the pain.” I was beside myself thinking, well, that’s just great! "Yeah, Father," I told him, "I’ll do that." Then I left. I went home feeling like, wow, that could have been better! I didn’t know what I was looking for, but felt there could have been something better than that.
Next day I went to work, I was told to get in my truck and get loaded. I tried not to show it, but inside I was freaking out. I didn’t want to do this. I got loaded and took off. As I was driving, it seemed every flipping kid in the area was outside playing by the streets, but in reality, there might have been three. I got to my delivery spot, unloaded the concrete and started driving back to the plant. I was in bad shape. I was nervous and terrified. At this point I said calmly, “God, please take away this pain.” Nothing…. Then I yelled as loud as I could, “God, please take away this pain!!!!!” At that moment, I felt as though something reached into me and pulled out all of the anguish, pain, and worry I’d been feeling! It was completely gone. I was fine. That fast, and it was gone; and I continued taking out loads of concrete from then on with no worry. I never forgot what had happened, or what I saw, but I was able to deal with it. Father Librea was right. He’d told me all I needed to do. He’s gone from us now, but I will never forget him and what he did for me that night. It was truly a gift.
I wasn’t able to see him due to Ready Mixed and the legal side of things until about six months later when I was told I could go to his house with a safety director from the company. I don’t remember what day it was, probably a Saturday, but when we arrived at the address, there was a boy shooting baskets! This kid that I saw mangled lying in a street was running, jumping and shooting baskets. We went inside and met his parents. We all sat down and talked. He told me he didn’t remember me. I laughed and told him that I was with you on the street the whole time, that he’d told me his name, age, what he liked doing, and so forth. He told me that all he remembered was the lady who was there. I said, but there was no lady, it was only me. He said no, I’m sorry, but she was the only one there and kept telling him he’d be OK. Anyway, I didn’t think much about it and figured it didn’t matter because he was alive and able to walk. That alone was a miracle!
I never saw him again after that day. I’ve often wondered if he still has that old Miraculous Medal I’d put around his neck. (I’d worn it for six years.) I hope he does, and I hope he’s well.
On Wednesday, December 21, Spirit Catholic Radio will re-run Phil's story in their "Best Of" Spirit Mornings interviews. Tune in to 102.7 in the Omaha/Council Bluffs metro area about 7:40 a.m. to hear it!
AUTHOR: PHIL ENGLISH
Phil English grew up in Magnolia, Delaware. After graduating from high school, he joined the Air Force at age 18, which brought him to Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue. He is currently a federal jet mechanic at Offutt for the Department of Defense. Phil is a member of Corpus Christi Parish.