I often think about certain events in my life and wonder what roles they play in The Big Picture a.k.a. God’s plan for my life. One such event is a crazy car accident I got into in the summer of 2006. I shy away from using the word “serious” in describing my car accident because it implies I was injured. I was not. I feel like “crazy” is a more apt description because, well, it was. It was surreal, and I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that not only did it happen, but that I walked away with only one or two superficial cuts and bruises and received a HUGE sign that God’s hand was in the situation.
My friend Meagan was slated to get married on a Saturday in June of 2006, and I was one of her bridesmaids. I had requested to have Thursday through Sunday off from work, but also wound up getting Wednesday off as well. Since I had an extra day and didn’t have to start wedding activities until that Friday, I thought I would drive up to Perry and see my parents and sister since they only lived an hour from where the wedding was going to take place (Tallahassee).
I was in the middle of the four-hour drive, riding along some back roads, when I went over a small hill and saw the small metal cage lying in the middle of the road. It was too big for me to ride over it, and since it had been raining lightly, I didn’t want to slam on my breaks on the slick road and fish-tail. So I swerved. However, BECAUSE it had been raining lightly, the road was just slick enough for my car to fish-tail anyway. Not thinking, I made a classic mistake, the one they tell you in driver’s ed NEVER to make–I over-corrected myself. Obviously, that did not help the situation, and my car started to spin out of control. Not really knowing what else to do–I mean, what else could I do?–I took my hands off the wheel and screamed.
The actual wreck was pretty surreal. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion and in real-time all at once, like a scene in an action movie where they slow down an action sequence and then speed it back up to real-time. My car spun off the road and hit grass, which is when it started flipping. It flipped once all the way over and was going back for round two when it hit a tree and stopped, landing upside down.
My first thought after it was over was, “Okay, I’m alive.” My second thought was that I had to see if I had any sort of injuries. I braced myself for blood and looked down at my arms, my hands, my lap, my legs, at the upholstery in the immediate vicinity. Nothing, other than a few scrapes. Other than being dazed, I actually felt fine. So then I thought, “Okay, I’ll just unbuckle my seat belt, crawl out of the window, and flag somebody down.”
The car I was driving at the time was the car I’d had since high school, a 1997 green Saturn I’d dubbed Big Green. It was pushing ten years old, and was on its last legs. It was at the point where it felt like I was at the shop every few months getting something fixed. The latest thing to go out had been the air conditioning, and since the car didn’t need AC to run, I never got it fixed. I was scheduled to graduate from college that December, so my plan was to hold out until after graduation and then get another car. I figured I could handle a few months of driving with the windows rolled down.
I tried to find the seat belt buckle, but because I had just been rolled around and was upside down, I was a little disoriented and couldn’t locate it. After a few seconds, I quit in frustration. Later on I would find out that the car had somehow landed on top of my hair (still haven’t worked that one out), effectively pinning me inside. Both the seat belt and my legs braced against the dashboard were the only things supporting my weight, so had I been able to undo my seat belt, not knowing that I was pinned inside, my weight easily could have fallen forward onto my head and neck, and who knows what would have happened then. Definitely a blessing in disguise that I was not able to locate the seat belt buckle.
Anyway, after giving up trying to undo my seat belt, I sat quietly for another couple of seconds, sure that someone would find me. I had passed other cars just before the accident; surely someone must have seen what happened. Then the doubts started creeping in. Although I had seen other vehicles prior to the accident, I wasn’t sure if there was anybody else on the road at the time I actually crashed. I also had no idea how far back off the road I was, if I was in a clearing people could see from the highway, or if I was in a heavily wooded area. So I decided to yell for help.
I got about one yell out when I saw a leg out of the corner of my eye. I stopped yelling, and, feeling slightly awkward and not sure what to say in this type of social situation, I said, “Hi.” The lady said she had seen the accident, but she didn’t have a cell phone on her, so she would flag down somebody who did. Seconds later she returned with another woman who asked me for phone numbers (after calling for an ambulance, of course). I only knew two numbers off the top of my head (I kept everybody’s information in my cell phone, and I was pretty sure that had bit the dust in the crash): that of my old roommates, Margie and Ned, and the number to my parents’ house phone. I first had the lady try my parents’ house. I knew they were at work, but there might have been a chance that my sister hadn’t left for work yet, since I spoke with her about fifteen minutes prior to the wreck. Nobody was home, so the lady left a message and asked for another number. I gave her Margie and Ned’s.
At this point the first responders arrived, although I only remember talking to one person, an older EMT lady. She was the one who told me that the car had landed on top of my hair and would have to be jacked up in order to free me. She didn’t have the equipment to do that, so she radioed in for extra help. The extra help seemed to take a hundred years to arrive. The ladies tried to keep me talking until the rest of the help arrived, so I told them all about the wedding, my friends, and college. However, I was getting increasingly uncomfortable. Being stuck upside down inside of a car isn’t a situation that screams comfort. My legs were getting tired, and I had limited movement of my head. I wanted out, and by the time backup arrived, I wouldn’t have cared if they chopped off my freaking hair to get me free.
When backup finally did arrive, it felt like it took another hundred years for the paramedics to assess the situation and figure out a course of action. During that time, I repeated my life story for a whole new set of ears, and prayed that they wouldn’t think I had been driving drunk. (I had brought booze with me for the bachelorette party, and the bottles exploded in the crash. Luckily, they weren’t suspicious and it was a non-issue.) Finally–finally–everything was in place, and they were able to jack the car up. I crawled out of the window, was loaded onto a stretcher and put in an ambulance set for Shand’s Hospital.
While I was being loaded onto the ambulance, the paramedics gathered up my bridesmaid’s dress, dufflebag, and wedding present, all of which turned out to be perfectly fine. The dress didn’t have a tear or a smudge on it. The dufflebag had remained in one piece. And other than some dirt, leaves, and sticks in the bag, the wedding present was untouched as well. These were also loaded onto the ambulance, and just as the doors were about to close, someone yelled that they had found my cell phone. It had flown out of car during the accident and was pretty banged up, but it still worked. An EMT gave it to me and instructed me to call my parents. I refused, afraid that if I did, I would lose it and start crying uncontrollably. I asked him to call for me, but he shook his head.
“If I call and they hear my voice, they are going to freak out,” he said. “It’s better that you do it.”
I can’t remember if I dialed my parents or my sister first, but I do know that Margie was able to get hold of them because they were en route to Shand’s when I called. After assuring them that I was okay, I then called Margie to thank her for her help. That’s when I found out she had to get my sister’s number from Meagan (the bride), so I called Meagan and let her know that I was okay. We got to Shand’s, and after another hundred years and two x-rays, I was finally able to go home. I was uninjured, but was prescribed muscle relaxers because the doctor assured me I’d be sore the next day.
The next day, my dad planned to go back to the car and to the wreck site to see if anything else could be salvaged. He asked me what I wanted brought back, and I told him my school parking pass and my rosary. The rosary was a souvenir Margie had brought back from a trip to Italy the summer before our senior year of high school. It was wooden and pink, and smelled of roses, but after years of hanging from my car’s rearview mirror, the color and smell had long faded. It held sentimental value, though, and I wanted it back, whether or not it was still in one piece.
Later on that afternoon, just before my dad left the wreck site, he called and told me what he was able to salvage. He was able to find the rosary, which was pretty much in tact. He also said that it smelled like roses. I was pretty much, “Okay, yeah, whatever, Pops,” thinking that maybe he got a faint whiff of roses or something, one last little smell that had lingered, but when he came home and gave it to me, the smell of roses was overpowering. I mean, the thing reeked. I didn’t need to bring it up to my nose in order to smell it.
We were all awed. Here was tangible evidence that God had His hand in the situation and protected me during that accident. I never got to see what my car looked like as I was being loaded onto the stretcher, but according to my dad, it looked like something that would be hard to walk away from, completely uninjured. And I was totally, completely, 100% not injured. It still blows my mind, five years later.
I often wonder why God protected me in that situation. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful He did! I just wonder how it fits into the grand scheme of things, what the point of it was. What kinds of plans does He have for me? Or did He do it simply because He loves me and it just wasn’t my time to go? Either way, I look forward to finding out, and am planning on making the most of this “second chance.” Oh, and by the way: I was able to participate in my friend’s wedding that weekend, as planned.