Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Light at the End of the Tunnel (01/23/14)
TITLE: The Oakland - Manhattan Connection
By Dusty Fontaine
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I remember watching the horrible images on television of the smoke billowing from the mouth of the tunnel as rescue workers hustled in and out to save lives. My wife and I prayed for the injured and the families of those who had died.
What made this tragedy stand out more than others that occurred around the same time was the trip we were planning from Florida to Connecticut at the end of May that year. My wife had given birth to our firstborn in March and we wanted to show him off to some old friends and family members living in Hartford. As we plotted our route on the map we noticed it was taking us to Route 495 in New Jersey across the Hudson River into New York. At closer look, the thick red line that spanned the two states did not represent a bridge, but a tunnel – the Lincoln Tunnel.
Driving eastbound on 495, approaching Weehawken, New Jersey, we began seeing signs for the tunnel. Dina teased we should stop and look for gasoline tankers; sitting all day until the coast was clear if needed. I said we had nothing to worry about -- if God allowed the children of Israel to go through the middle of the Red Sea safely on dry land; he would surely let us drive across the Hudson River surrounded by water on all sides.
I looked around for gas trucks and felt some relief when I didn’t see any. But, by the time I reached the window at the toll booth there were three of them coming up behind me. I let out a sigh, paid the fee and rolled toward the tunnel mouth.
There were signs everywhere: STAY IN YOUR CAR, KEEP MOVING, DO NOT CHANGE LANES, SPEED LIMIT 35 MPH… The sense of urgency these signs emitted was not lost on me. I grasped tight onto the steering wheel and accelerated the car to the posted speed. I peered into the rearview mirror to check on the tankers. They were leaving the booths, still a couple of cars behind. I closed my eyes just long enough to send a thought heavenward: Keep us safe Lord.
I don’t think anyone else saw the signs I did. As soon as we got inside the dark tube, the car behind me honked and crossed the solid yellow line to our left, passing me at a high rate of speed, barely missing the front of my car as he pulled back into my lane. Two or three other cars did the same thing. I checked my speed; I was doing thirty-six, one over. My white knuckles were clinching the steering wheel at ten and two. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the front grill of one of the trucks towing a gas tank as it pulled up even with my driver’s door. A quick glance in the mirror showed another was only inches from my back bumper.
This remained the position of our vehicles for the next two and a half minutes – the longest two and a half minutes of my life. Inside the car was a heavy quiet. The radio had been turned off since the toll booth and my wife and I did not speak a word. When finally we saw through the darkness, what appeared to be an oval window framing the city we were driving into, our collective sighs broke the silence.
As soon as we emerged into the New York sunlight the road opened up into multiple lanes, allowing the gasoline tankers to move beyond us. As we stopped at a red light I released my fingers from the steering wheel, opening and closing them in an attempt to get the blood flowing again. I looked over at my wife and shook my head. We both smiled. Then I pointed to a sign just outside her window: WELCOME TO MANHATTAN.
“Great! More quiet time.” I said.
Keep us safe Lord.
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