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No Fair

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By Jeff M. Hardison

No Fair

Life is not fair.

Saturday at about 7:30 a.m., my wife Sharon and I left to go to the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

I had plans to take photos of award-winning cattle and to have lots of fun.

I drove our Jeep on Alt. 27 to catch I-75 at Ocala, but it was very foggy.

I decided to go down U.S. Highway 19 instead, because the traffic would be slower and lighter than on the Interstate.

Shortly after going through Chiefland on 19, we smelled smoke.

Almost immediately, we couldn't see a thing. I pulled over. I lit my four-way flashers as I parked on the western grass. Others pulled over too. A minute or so after that, we couldn't even see the cars three feet in front of us.

I called 9-1-1 and advised the dispatcher that visibility was zero. I said the road should be closed. We heard a bunch of beeps and then a crash. We waited. Then, we heard another screech and crash.

I called 9-1-1 again to let them know about the accidents. I was told that help was on the way. We heard sirens. We only saw fog and smoke.

Eventually, I saw the outline of Florida Highway Patrol cruiser and a Levy County Sheriff's cruiser pass by with an ambulance behind them.

It was unsettling to sit in a vehicle, trapped in smog - not knowing if someone would run into us. Within a short time, we heard another loud bang behind us. That must have been the boat in tow that hit the fire engine.

The smoke was awful. Sharon said her throat was sore and it was hard to breath. She told me that she felt like Elaine stuck on the darkened subway on Seinfeld. After we were home, she told me she wanted to scream "I need to get out of here now!"

Finally we saw people. "Stay in your cars," they shouted. We did. After they left, other cars took off to see if they could get farther. They got about two car lengths ahead and had to pull back over.

We waited. Finally we saw traffic heading back to Chiefland. That's where we wanted to go but we were heading south. Rats. The guy in front of us made a daring U-turn and headed along with the others. He cut in front of a truck towing a boat.

We finally were allowed to cross the median and head home. We still couldn't see far. We thanked God for the people who rescued us.

Jeff M. Hardison is a staff writer with the Chiefland Citizen. He may be contacted at news@chieflandcitizen.com or by calling (352) 493-4796.