[Please forgive this entirely personal post. If you only want to read about social marketing, skip this one.]
By all rights, I should not be sitting here at my computer like this was just another day. If the universe worked in an entirely rational way, I would either be in a hospital bed, or, God forbid, even worse. I escaped death yesterday and I’ve only just started to process the implications.
Yesterday morning, I was driving down the freeway with my kids in the back seat, on our way back to the old neighborhood to visit family and do some errands. We’ve made the trip a million times, though this was the first time I’ve driven back since we moved. There wasn’t too much traffic in our direction, so I was moving along at about 70 mph in the second lane from the left.
As I transitioned into the adjacent lane to the right, another car came at me from the other side without seeing that I was already there. I quickly swerved back to the lane I’d come from to avoid being hit and my car started fishtailing. I couldn’t get it back under control. The car’s rear rocked back and forth in wider and wider arcs, until it spun out in a broad semicircle, cutting across four lanes of traffic and winding up facing the opposite direction in the far right lane.
As we were spinning, I watched the other cars behind me braking and trying to avoid hitting me and each other. When I realized that I had no control over what was happening, I braced myself for the inevitable impact, hoping it would not be bad and not letting the very real possibility into my mind of just how bad it could be. When the car finally stopped, unhit but facing an oncoming minibus, I held my breath until it screeched to a halt a few yards from my car.
I checked with the kids to make sure they were okay, and my son cried, “This is the worst day of my life!” I took a few beats to breathe and pull myself together, then pulled the car over to the shoulder, around the minibus, still facing backwards. Several other cars had dented each other in my wake, but thank God, nobody was hurt and no cars were more than slightly damaged. Once I pulled over, the enormity of what had just happened hit me, and I sat stunned.
I got out of the car with my cell phone, intending to call for help. I spoke briefly with the bus driver and found out that nobody was hurt on the bus or in any of the cars that had pulled over ahead of me on the shoulder. Have you ever had one of those dreams where you have an emergency and need to dial 911 but your fingers just won’t push the right numbers? I dialed the phone and realized when I heard someone say “What city and state, please?” that I had just dialed 411 and reached directory assistance. I redialed 911, and ended up getting a recording that all operators were busy and that I should stay on the line. I waited for what felt like forever, but was probably about 5 minutes, until I finally was connected to a dispatcher. It’s scary to think that those minutes would have been wasting if someone had actually been injured and needed immediate assistance. I just hoped that someone who had witnessed the scene called for help as they drove by and got through quickly.
Eventually a freeway service tow truck came by and assessed the situation. He called a highway patrol officer to block off traffic with his car as he arrived so I could turn my car around to face the right direction. We all exited the freeway and pulled onto a side street to give our reports to the CHP officer. Apparently one or two people who had hit other cars had taken off quickly, though someone had noted a license plate number, and the officer received a call while he was with us that the person had been caught. The kids were amazing and sat in the car patiently waiting during the hour after the incident. They didn’t seem to suffer any traumatic aftereffects, though they insisted I not take the freeway ever again.
I arrived at my stepsister’s house pretty shaken. I just cannot get over the fact that we and our car emerged from that without a single scratch. Though it was relatively light traffic, there were cars all around me at the time. And when I think about how it could have turned out differently, especially with the kids in the car, I still tremble. I am convinced that God was watching out for us. There’s simply no other satisfactory explanation for how we could have survived that unscathed. [Atheists need not respond – I don’t believe in coincidences.] It was apparently not my or my kids’ time to go (thank God), and I take that to mean that we still have things we have to accomplish here.
That day truly could have been the “worst day” of my son’s life, but thank God it turned out to be just a little excitement to start out the day and nothing more. But I am forever changed, as I have a heightened appreciation for the fact that life as I know it could be interrupted at any moment and should not be taken for granted. The lump in my throat will eventually go away as time goes on, but I hope my feeling of thankfulness will endure.