An Ill-lit Section of Highway  

Posted by Brock Booher

It isn’t everyday that you swerve your car to miss a dead body in the road, but then again none of my days were ordinary as an embassy worker in Lima, Peru.

In July of 1996 I boarded an airplane in Dallas, Texas, bound for Lima, Peru. My Air Force records indicated that I was fluent in Spanish. So when the Air Force needed a pilot, fluent in Spanish, for an assignment in Peru, the computer spit out my name and two weeks later I found myself in the back of an airplane headed south.

Lima is a vibrant colonial city ringed by several shantytown barrios that sprang up during periods of civil and economic unrest. More than a million people live without running water or electricity. At night, those shantytowns, and the sections of the Pan American Highway that run through them, can become dangerous. The ill-lit sections of highway allow for numerous accidents and intentional crimes.

One night I confused my turn and got on to the Pan American Highway headed into one of those shantytowns. Realizing my mistake, and not wanting to fall victim to a crime, I varied my speed, and changed lanes often. As I crested a dark hill my high beams shone on an overpass. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small crowd of people huddled at the side of the road. In the middle of my lane I saw a body.

I jerked the wheel. I slammed on the brakes. The car spun around and I almost lost control. I came to rest along the side of the road facing oncoming traffic. I loosened my death grip on the wheel, and saw the crowd coming my way. I wasn’t sure of their intentions. Sometimes highway bandits would use events like this as a ruse to lure you to stop. Believing the best of these people, I cracked my window to speak with them.

“Did you run over him?” asked an old man in Spanish, apparently the informal leader of the group.

“No,” I replied, “But he looks dead.”

“He was drunk and stumbled into the road. He has been run over several times, but you are the only one that stopped,” commented the old man as the crowd nodded their heads and moaned in agreement.

With the adrenaline still pumping, but not exactly sure how I could help, I rolled down my window the rest of the way and offered to call someone with my cell phone, but no one knew what number to call. I suggested they take some newspaper and light a fire to prevent other motorists from running over him again. Within a few minutes the fire prevented another collision. While I was on the phone with the embassy trying to figure out the best course of action, the flashing lights of a police car topped the dark hill I had crested several minutes earlier. As the police car came into full view, the crowd ran back to the scene to observe the spectacle, except for the old man.

“Get out of here!” he yelled. “They will blame it on you!”

No further prodding was needed. I slammed the car into gear, quickly spun it around, and hurried along the ill-lit highway on my way home, grateful that I had missed the dead body, and any blame for the poor man’s demise.

Cody Goes to College  

Posted by Brock Booher

It isn’t everyday you send a son away to college, especially to a far-away place like Hawaii, but then again Cody wasn’t born on just any day.

Sometime around 2:00 am two days before Cody was born, a young gate guard from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, pulled out his sidearm and shot himself in the head while on duty. At the time we were living in a two-bedroom apartment in Wichita Falls, and I was assigned to the Services Squadron while I waited for a cockpit to open up for me (post Gulf War drawdown). One of my many duties at the time was Mortuary Officer. My phone rang around 3:00 am.

With the death of the young airman, my life went into overdrive. If you think the military controls your life while your alive, you should see how much they control things when someone dies. Long detailed checklists are initiated by several agencies when someone dies on duty, especially if it is a suicide.

When the body had been properly prepared for burial, I had to go through a checklist with the mortician and the funeral home. It was sad to see a life with so much promise terminated early by its own hand. It is even more tragic when you learn that he took his life over a couple hundred dollars in bad checks. It amazed me that someone valued their own life so little, or saw no way out of such a shallow hole, but then again we humans can be quite frail at times, even after exhibiting great strength and tenacity in other situations. I completed the obligatory checklists and went home troubled.

That night around 3:00 am, I made a call of my own. My wife Britt had gone into labor, and I called a family to help watch our oldest son Rian while we headed for the hospital at Sheppard Air Force Base. After several hours of difficult labor, Cody was born. Within twenty-four hours I had been a witness to both death and birth. I had seen the hope and promise of tomorrow snuffed out prematurely, and I had seen new life come charging forth in its mortal glory, all in the same day.

Now Cody is grown. He is a mature man ready to cross the threshold and venture into the world full of that same hope and promise. I don’t know what his future holds, but I hope he never stops believing in himself. I hope he will always value his life. I pray he will never find himself despairing in some shallow hole he might have dug for himself, wondering if he can go on. May he never forget that life, with all its happy moments and tragedies, is meant to be lived.

It isn’t an ordinary day when you send a son to college, but then again Cody isn’t an ordinary son. God speed, and as they say in Hawaii – Aloha nui loa, a hui hou kakou.