‘The Good Lord was next to him’

You hear some odd things, when you sit ten feet from a police scanner.

When I worked in Mississippi, the police scanner was constantly abuzz, sitting atop the long desk where we spread that week’s newspaper pages for editing. 

There were conversations about suspicious people walking through neighborhoods. There were notifications of warrants being served. There were calls for assistance at house fires. 

But I never thought I would hear a call about an eighteen-wheeler ramming through someone’s house. In August 2010, in Magee, it happened. 

The call came over the police scanner shortly after three o’clock, and I looked at a co-worker, befuddled. I grabbed a camera and a notebook and headed out. 

I drove over somewhat skeptically, wondering why an eighteen-wheeler would even be on Laurel Drive Southeast. And even if a vehicle did slam into someone’s home, I was sure that it just scraped a corner. 

When I arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Power lines flickered with orange in the street. Debris floated in the air. Up a steep, grassy bank, there was an eighteen-wheeler jammed into the side of a brick house. It had gone so far inside that just its back half was visible. The sight was rather unbelievable.

I stood with police officers, first responders and curious neighbors. I wondered if anyone was home, shortly after three o’clock on a Monday. Turns out, someone was. The man was elderly, and he was taking a nap when the crash happened. 

The driver of the eighteen-wheeler had apparently had some sort of heart-related episode, and lost control. He barreled over light poles, causing some homes to lose power. 

The man living in the home was in his bed, near the back corner of the house, opposite of where the big truck crashed. But an eighteen-wheeler with momentum doesn’t just stop instantly. It tore through the man’s house, reaching his bedroom. The homeowner suffered a laceration on the back of his head, as well as other cuts and bruises. He was airlifted to an area hospital.

While I milled around the truck, curious what it was transporting, what had happened to the driver, the police department’s chief investigator emerged from the rubble. He knew I was there to get the story. He told me that when first responders got inside, the homeowner was in his bed, the truck’s front fender resting against him. It had stopped just in time.

“The Good Lord was next to him in that bed,” the investigator told me.

It was the only quote I used in the story.