Ed Slattery looked up at the nurse, his vision blurred by the first tears he’d allowed himself to shed since the crash. The doctors had just wheeled his youngest son out of the room for yet another emergency procedure that may, or may not, save his life. “Can you tell the surgeon something for me?” Ed asked the nurse, “If my son is going to die on that table, I want to be there to hold him when he does.”
It had been two days. Ed had already lost his wife and was now in danger of losing of his 12-year-old son. He wanted to embrace his boy at least once more; not let go of the tragic few pieces left of the family he’d gotten the rare second chance to build. Susan Slattery, a well-known professor at a Baltimore area university, was one of 3,686 people killed in crashes with large trucks on American roadways in 2010. Her sons, Peter and Matthew, were two of the 80,000 people the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says were injured in crashes that same year.
According to the FMCSA, the number of injuries and deaths by large trucks on American roads has steadily risen since the crash that devastated the Slattery family at mile marker 190 on Interstate 80 in Ohio. Now, well more than four thousand people die each year in large truck crashes on American roadways. But this narrative nonfiction is not just about the troubling numbers, as it also examines the incomputable emotional carnage left behind.
THE LONG BLINK details the journey of an ordinary man forced into an extraordinary life with a force almost equal to the tractor-trailer that slammed into his family’s car. Ed Slattery’s struggle is intimate and powerful, as he deals with the heart-wrenching loss of his wife and the disabling of his son at the hands of an industry’s policies which he, as a United States government economist, feels is valuing profit over life.
Anger and frustration boil, but also serve to fuel Ed’s remarkable transformation into a lobbyist on Capitol Hill battling for safer roads. But Ed’s story is also about finding peace where he can. He becomes a champion for the disabled after the sobering and explosive confrontation with, and attempt at, forgiving the driver, who fell asleep and caused the crash.
The result is an exclusive look at a growing danger we see appear and, hopefully, pass by in our side view mirrors every day; how in just one long blink of tired eyes, lives are lost and families are broken to reveal the true cost of moving cheaper goods across this nation.
See Brian’s original reporting on the Slattery family
© The E.W. Scripps Company
This Emmy Award-winning story aired in November of 2010 on WMAR-TV in Baltimore. This was the first of many stories Brian wrote and produced about the Slattery’s journey. This report is featured in THE LONG BLINK and was the beginning of several years of coverage. To see more of Brian’s reporting that led to the book, click on the link below.Watch More on YouTube