I 94 Accident, Mick Pawlik was laying tile in his kitchen when his pager went off, and within minutes the volunteer fire chief found himself in a “war zone,” staring at a mile of mangled semis and crumpled cars along Interstate 94.
“People are trapped and twisted and you see the fear in their eyes,’’ said Pawlik, 55, a retired utility worker. “When people are stuck in their cars, they look at you like we’re Moses. Part the waters and save us. We can’t show no fear or panic.”
He and other firefighters from the Coolspring Volunteer Fire Department quickly and quietly went about their jobs, checking the wreckage for signs of life. Three people died in the accident, which occurred Thursday afternoon near Michigan City, Ind., and nearly two dozen were injured.
“We know our limitations and what we’ve got to do,” Pawlik said. “We’re like family.’’
Sometimes, they didn’t even realize there were cars pinned under semis until they got close. “There were people in cars you couldn’t even see,” he said. “It’s hard to come up on a car with a person in it. . .They don’t want you to leave but you’ve got to go.”
Pawlik said he tried to “get human” with the people who were trapped to calm them down. He talked to them, asked their names and sometimes joked.