Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Trip Part II: Everything IS Big in Texas

"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22, everything will be alright if...." Taylor Swift was still echoing in my head minutes after turning my music off. We were talking, commenting on the traffic, the drizzle and then BANG! 

Or was it BOOM?! 

The loud sound of metal crashing.

"What the....!"

I was on the front passenger seat of our SUV, with my Mom behind me, and Dad behind my husband who was driving. Noah was in his car seat between my parents. I looked to our left as I felt our vehicle jerk to the side. Mom screamed. I was mostly confused. I still couldn't process what was happening until I saw this red truck moving between us and the left guardrail, hitting our left side all the way through until BAM! The other driver had obviously lost control and swerved right, further hitting the front of our SUV. At some point, I saw and heard the left airbags deploy, and I could hear my Mom still screaming in shock. I looked back and saw she was in tears, asking if my Dad was okay. Dad's ear was bleeding, though only superficially. He said he couldn't hear on his left ear. AJ's left arm was a bit sore from the airbag. We were all in shock, disoriented. I couldn't figure out why the truck that hit our rear still kept moving and hitting us. It was all so fast and yet it felt like the longest 30 seconds or so.

What just happened?!

It didn't take long before AJ dialed 911. While on the phone, we saw an old man alight from the red truck that hit us, and watched him walk closer towards us. He was shaking, asking if we were alright. He mumbled something about his mother being stuck inside his truck. The 911 operator instructed all of us to stay where we were, flash our hazards and that help was on its way. I'm certain the operator said a lot more but honestly, I was too much in survival mode at the time that I really don't remember all the details of what was said. I was mostly concerned with making sure everyone was okay and figuring out if I was still REALLY alive. (To be honest, I still wonder now if this is all real and that I really made it out of there alive, or if I'm like Tom Cruise in the movie Vanilla Sky).

We were 42 miles northeast of Dallas, travelling towards Benton, Arkansas where we were booked at a hotel to spend the night. One more day and we were back home from our vacation in Las Vegas, our almost two-week cross-country drive. Everything had been fun and amazing up until that point when things just turned plain scary. 

Who would've thought? We were doing everything right. AJ was awake. I was awake making sure he was awake. Traffic wasn't even fast. We were on our lane. We always signal when we change lanes and always do it carefully. But not everyone is the same, right? We still don't know what caused the other driver to hit us. He might have been distracted. He might have fallen asleep. But the logical conclusion is that he clearly did not anticipate that traffic had slowed down in front of him and he just kept going. We're just thankful that it appeared like he had done his best to not hit us head on. Our guess is that he hit the left guardrail first to try not to hit our vehicle, but then he probably ricocheted and ended up hitting our left rear wheel area and then slid all the way to our left side, inserting his truck between us and the left guardrail. Finally he swerved to our front, towards our right, until his vehicle stopped. 

It was a big accident that stopped the interstate for a while. It was bad. And traumatic for all of us. But in the grand scheme of things, we are still grateful and believe that angels watched over us and protected us. It definitely could have been worse...much worse.

What if we were hit directly on the back? The force would have pushed us towards the semi-truck that was right in front of us in traffic. 

What if, instead of hitting the left rear wheel which is a solid part of the vehicle, the other driver had hit the left passenger door which is more vulnerable and not as solid as the wheel? My Dad's injury would have been far worse, far more serious. All of us might have had some injuries too, including my 8-year old. I refuse to even think about it.


Point of impact

Damaged front


Damaged right front corner

Trauma and paranoia aside, this experience highlighted a number of lessons and realizations for me. 

First of all, please, please, please...Wear your seat belt, even when you're seated in the back. All the police officers, EMTs, nurses and doctors asked us that question and were all relieved to hear that all of us were wearing ours. I'm sure it would've been a different story if one or some of us were not securely belted in the vehicle.

Second, I still can't explain why I remained so oddly calm while it was all happening. I remember hearing a crashing metal sound and then the airbag popping and everything else that happened around me. But I also remember just simply looking and knowing deep down that we were going to be alright. I don't know how or why I thought this but the thought definitely kept me calm. Divine intervention? Perhaps. Who knows?

Third, I know it's cliche but life can really change in an instant. You always say it will never happen to you, until it does and you're shaken to the core. These experiences really make one focus on the good and the real things that matter. I believe that is Love. It's the people we truly love, the relationships we genuinely treasure. Everything else is 'stuff', background noise, replaceable. It's a shame that it takes crises for this realization to be brought to the fore. But as Maya Angelou always preached, "When you know better, you do better."

Before I end this post, I'd like to share that though the accident was truly unfortunate, I believe we were still fortunate and blessed to have met such caring and supportive Texans. Officer Daniel looked after us and made sure we received the help we needed. The hospital staff who cared for us at Hunt Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Texas, specifically nurse Brandi and William, are two of the most amazing strangers I've ever met. They were willing to give us a ride to the closest hotel and went above and beyond their professional responsibilities. I will forever remember their kindness and thank them from the depths of my being. May they always be blessed with earthly angels just as we've been blessed with them.


Thank you everyone for your thoughts and stay safe!




3 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry you had to go through this - how scary! I've always been a big proponent of seat belts - and even more so after my older son's friends had a terrible accident. The driver wasn't wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car, and died. My son's best friend was riding in the back with his seat belt on, and even though he was seriously injured, he ultimately recovered, at least physically. Such a simple thing to do, and so important! Glad you were all okay!

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  2. I'm so, so sorry to hear your vacation ended this way. But so glad it was with none of your "what ifs". Seat belts and airbags are in every car for a reason - glad to hear they were helpful in your case.
    I tagged you today in a bloggers game of love and hate. Feel free to participate or not. One of my dislikes I listed was "Driving" - and this post has reinforced that thought! So glad that all of you are ok.

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