Marc Sparks is an entrepreneur who has been involved in more than sixty start-ups since the Seventies. He is also the founder, owner, and CEO of Timber Creek Capital, a private equity firm.
My wife and I are somewhat haunted by an event we recently experienced; however, we look at this tragic circumstance as another reminder as to how we should live life with an exclamation and not an explanation.
Most weekends, we take off on Friday morning at about 9:30 (after traffic) and drive 2 hours to our ranch in East Texas (I have an office there). Something came up this particular Friday that held us in town, and we decided to go out on Saturday after our Spin Class (stationary bicycling) instead. It was very strange, after nearly a decade, to drive out to our ranch at 1 in the afternoon on a Saturday, but we did it.
On Saturday, May 25, we took Central Expressway out of Dallas and veered east onto what is known as “The High Five” mixmaster—a five-level, 12-story high interchange located at the junction of Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway (Interstate 635) and Central Expressway (U.S. Highway 75)—just as we have done for years. We got onto I-635 going east toward Interstate 30, our usual route to East Texas. We were in the center lane about a mile down a ten- lane (both ways) freeway. We were driving in unison with thousands of other cars and going about 65 miles per hour. The traffic was heavy, more like pre-rush hour traffic than a lazy Saturday afternoon. I had both hands on the wheel and was focused on the speeding cars around me.
Everything from this point on takes place in about a 6-second time frame. My wife was in the passenger seat to my right, and she noticed up ahead a young woman standing against the concrete divider in the center of the freeway (as if her car had broken down). I did not see the young lady, as she was in my windshield blind spot (behind the standard that holds the windshield in place). Suddenly the young lady starts walking across LBJ Freeway! My wife was speechless, and as the woman crossed the HOV lane and then the first lane…ALL OF THE SUDDEN she appeared in the middle of my lane. NOW I SEE HER!
The tall, slender woman with cutoff blue jeans, sunglasses and a purse draped around her shoulder is staring right at me as I am barreling down on her at 65 miles an hour. I may have had 3 seconds to react. Cars all around me, I gritted my teeth and squeezed my steering wheel in preparation of an impact. I mashed on my brakes trying not to lock them up. I had several cars behind me so stopping was not an option. My instincts were to veer left or right depending on the direction she decided to go—so I start twitching my steering wheel, left and right, back and forth. I did not know how close a vehicle was on my left; however, I knew there was a white suburban in the lane to the right about a car length behind me.
Fortunately the woman kept moving through my lane and I swerved slightly to the left and swished by her back foot as she lifted her leg in a slow jog. Miraculously, I missed her … and then I smashed down on the accelerator to get out of what “might” happen next. Sadly, the next thing we heard was a loud THUD as it turns out the SUV in the lane just behind my right side was the unlucky vehicle (person) that hit her square on. I am sure my car was in the driver’s blind spot, and he might have seen her for a tenth of a second before he hit her.
As it turns out, I was the last person to look her in the eye. Kelli Cavell-Nowlin, a 26-year-old, single mother of two boys was instantly killed trying to cross one of the busiest freeways in Texas. Of course we were stunned and speechless. The first thing that came to mind is that Kelli must have wanted to commit suicide, because no one would have tried to cross LBJ Freeway on foot–even in the best of circumstances. According to the newspaper article that followed, Kelli was trying to get to a job to help someone out that was “having a bad day.”
So, THE question is—WHY? Why were we on LBJ Freeway at 1:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday? Why were we in this strange spot at a strange time to witness such a strange event? WHY did Kelli not just wait and cross when there was no traffic? Why did the guy next to me—and NOT me—have to be the one who could not avoid hitting Kelli? I have no other explanation other than “there but for the grace of God, go I.”
We believe that the GOOD LORD has a plan, and somehow in this tragedy good must prevail. I hope that whoever is reading this will realize that life truly is precious and we must all thrive and prosper as we live a life of purpose.
Read more Marc Sparks’ insights at www.whoismarcsparks.com, his views on business and entrepreneurship at www.timbercreekcapital.com, and excerpts from his upcoming book, They Can’t Eat You, at www.marcsparks.com.