I was driving home from an eye doctor's appointment in DC a couple of hours ago, on 66 West, when the car in front of me suddenly stopped. It took me a couple of minutes to fully register what had happened in front of me.
A huge tree had fallen and completely blocked the highway in front of me. All the cars around me came to a full stop and people started running out of their cars to see what had happened. A woman had climbed out of her car, which was stopped right at the tree. She was looking ahead of the pile of branches and screaming. I realized that the tree had just fallen, and a car was stuck under the mass of branches, and I feared someone was hurt.
After a few minutes it became clear that everyone was ok, just really shaken up, and one car was seriously wrecked.
I climbed out of my car, opened the back seat door and took my two year old out of her car seat. I explained to her what had just happened. And then I started worrying about my five month old at home with my sisters, she'd be waking up soon, and ready for her feeding. Man, if i had only been a few minutes earlier. But in reality, if I had been just a minute earlier, I may have been that car stuck under the tree, wrecked. So, alhamdulillah.
Within minutes, I saw a line of men walking up from behind me. They went up to the fallen branches and started moving them. Man after man came up, till there were at least twenty men picking up the fallen debris. I was impressed by this feeling of civil responsibility and communal work. People could have just sat in their cars and waited for the firemen and police who drove up soon after to pick up the debris. But they realized that we would all get moving that much quicker if everyone pitched in and picked up a little. A car and a motorcycle even stopped on the other side of the highway (which was moving really slowly because of the rubbernecking and a bunch of leaves on the road), and two men got out to help. They could have driven on, but they were there to help their neighbors. I wish I had a camera to take a picture of the men standing in line, picking up a heavy branch, led by sixtyish year old looking man. ...
I was thinking of what the response would have been like had I been in Iraq... People would have started backing up on the highway, driving 'wrong-side' as they call it, to get on their way home, or wherever they were heading. That was my first reaction, was there anyway I could back up to the exit I just passed...
It took about thirty minutes for the firemen, police and the random passersby to clean up most of the fallen tree. Within minutes, a policeman started waving the first cars through the one open lane, and I was safely on my way home.
For some pics, check out this link.