It was awful, and I knew it instantly.
I was working at my desk Tuesday afternoon when I heard it.
It was a deep, dull boom — loud enough to jerk me to attention, and I was a long way from it.
Then I heard screeching tires and I knew what the sound was.
Never miss a local story.
It was a collision on U.S. 278 at Buck Island Road in Bluffton, outside The Island Packet’s offices.
That sound won’t be leaving my mind for a long time, if ever.
That’s the way it is in newspaper work. I can ride around peaceful streets on Hilton Head Island and Bluffton and be the only one on the road to see images that never go away. Like the spot at the edge of the highway where a woman’s shoe was left after she had been hit by a car. Or I see that tree where tape from a cassette player dangled like Christmas tinsel the morning after a speeding teenager hit the tree and was killed.
I know police and EMTs — and newspaper people — steel themselves against the emotional toll of the sights they see.
In this case, they all responded quickly and tried their hardest. They brought in a helicopter to get the worst case to the right hospital as quickly as possible.
But that awful thud got much worse the next day when we learned the collision had claimed the life of a young school teacher and her unborn baby. Her husband was driving. They say there was nothing he could have done to avoid the collision.
Everyone involved would do anything to turn that clock back a half minute and prevent that awful thud.
I go through that crossing every morning coming to work.
Well, I should say I used to do that.
This morning, I didn’t have the stomach to make that left turn across three lanes of U.S. 278 with cars and massive trucks barreling out of a curve at who knows what speed.
I took the flyover from Hilton Head and came down Bluffton Parkway.
People I work with have been in bad wrecks at that Buck Island Road intersection.
Things improved when they installed a traffic light. But as highway department people have always said, a traffic light does not end all wrecks at an intersection.
But now they have something going on there that I don’t understand.
The light for drivers turning from U.S. 278 on to Buck Island Road sometimes flashes yellow. It used to be green when all others were stopped and you could turn left, safely. Or it would be red, and you had to stop and wait for it to turn green, even if it looked clear to go ahead and turn.
I don’t know the details of the collision that claimed the young school teacher. The Bluffton Police say a car stalled as it made that left turn.
I don’t know if the blinking yellow light was in effect, or is considered a factor.
But I do know offering the yellow-light option there is a bad idea. Changing that is one small thing that could easily improve safety of that intersection.
The flashing yellow light is not a fair option to those who still have the nerve to use that intersection. Or to those who can still hear the thud.