Debra Swersky
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Not On My Checklist

I’ve got a to-do list a mile long these days. There are so many life events taking place, important trips coming up, and priorities to manage that my to-do list feels never-ending. I don’t need to go through the details of it all, but I’m sure you can imagine that between a graduation, two trips out of the country, and an upcoming cross-country move, I’ve got my hands full.

At any rate, on Monday the bus that I was taking from New York City to Boston exploded on the Massachusetts Turnpike. We were 15-minutes from South Station. Fortunately, everyone was able to get off the bus safely before the flames consumed the bus. For the duration of the trip the bus driver had been battling maintenance issues. There was a beeping noise that she was trying to fix… unsuccessfully. After stopping for two hours in Connecticut the head-pounding sound persisted - it was distracting, piercing, and incessant. Finally, as we rounded on the last stretch of the Mass Pike near Auburndale it was a (strange) relief when the engine of the bus cut-out and a vehicle stopped in front of us forcing the bus to hit the brakes. Seeing the bus finally stop, a man jumped out of the stopped vehicle and began running towards the bus. As he approached the driver he started yelling, “Your bus is on fire. If there are people on this bus you need to get them out… now!” (Thank you, Sir. Wherever you are.) I was sitting in the first row, aisle seat, so I not only saw what was happening, but I was one of the first people off of the bus.

As I walked off the bus, I didn’t look back to see the flames until I had reached a grassy flat stretch of the Mass Pike that was sufficiently far enough away. By the time I turned around the flames were more than visible and the smoke was taking over the sky. Within 10-minutes the news helicopters were on the scene and live coverage was inevitable. The explosion blew off the siding and shot fireballs through the front windshield… it’s a miracle that no one was hurt. At that point I knew that the only thing standing in between me and not getting back on another bus was the fence enclosing the Mass Pike… so I hopped it and started walking to the T station. (Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t that far.)

While walking I reflected on how lucky I was to be alive and how much I would have missed in life had the bus not stopped… dying was not on my checklist for this week. Then it occurred to me that breathing was not on my checklist for this week either. 

Uh. Oh.

My life is a series of events that exist in the future and my world revolves around planning for those events. More often than not I forget to breathe and enjoy the moment. With so many “really outstanding” moments coming up in the next few days, weeks, and months, I’m going to make a conscious effort to add “breathing” to my to do list so that I don’t take for granted the moments that I would have missed had our bus not been forced to stop and evacuate everyone onto the Mass Pike.

Debra Swersky