Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Close Call...

This is what happened.

I was driving home from work. I had just dropped Aundray off at home. I had carefully maneuvered my way through the snowy streets up to this point. I like to think that I am a pretty safe inclimate weather driver.

I'm driving north on 63 going about 50 maybe 55 mph. The highways are pretty clear at this point so I was going faster than I normally would after snow. The song "You don't see me" by Keane was blasting on the stereo and I am happily harmonizing along (Keane if perfect for inventing new harmonies). I'm singing along to the first round of the chorus and prep myself mentally for the bump as I go over the rail road tracks.

It's funny. I've often wondered what it's like to get into a serious car accident. Not a fender bender or a run in with the mail box (I never did that by the way). I'm talking real spinning out of control accident here. I once wrote about it. See Entry Seventeen in my other blog. I imagine things slowing down and all sound disappearing. Everything is surreal until the deadly impact comes and then it all sound and light and pain. Let me tell you, I had it pretty close to right.

I hit the bump and the tracks and in the middle of singing a note I go over the mother of all icy patches. I skid. Just a little fish tail at first. My heart lept and I did the first thing my mind thought of. I turned the wheel into the skid. Then things got out of control. Suddenly I was spinning. Not a fast tilt-a-whirl spin. A slow, almost methodical turning of the car. All sound disappeared. I'm not sure if that's because my ears stopped registering it or because my stereo was jolted out of play. But all I could hear was the blood rushing into my brain. My heart stopped. Every thought of "this is how you get out of a spin and get back in control" left me. All thought of the nights previous work left as well. In fact every thought left except the one that knew with absolute surety that I was going to hit something. I sat, gripping the wheel, bracing myself internally for that moment of sound and pain that would surely come.

I didn't close my eyes. I did hold my breath. I just sat there and let it happen because at that point there was no way I was going to regain control of my car. I went over both lanes of 63-north and into the grassy ditch of a median. I thought my journey would stop there. No, I somehow got over the dip and then kept spinning onto the opposite side of the highway. I went over both of those lanes as well and spun at least two more times in the grass bordering 63-south. At that point my thoughts went from "I'm going to hit something" to "I'm going to flip and roll down that hill there." But after two spins I stopped. Slanted, on the grass at the crest of that hill, everything was absolutely still.

The music of Keane stuttered back to my ears. I think it may have stopped when I bumped over the median. It was blaringly too loud. I hit pause and remembered to breathe. I was shaking. My car was no longer running. My lights were still on. A new kind of silence came then. The silence of one who realizes that they are alive when they could have been dead. I took several deep breaths. The first thing I felt was the biggest wave of relief I've ever felt in my life. Then, immense gratitude. My next emotion was shame. I saw cars passing me and I wondered if they were all thinking what I think when I see a car off the road..."what an idiot to drive stupidly in this weather. If they are okay, it serves them right to be stuck in the snow on the side of the road." I quickly turned off my lights and turned on my flashers.

The next thing to do was get off this hill. My first thought was to call Mom and Dad. So I did. # times. I called mom 3 times also. I called Kirsti once. No one was answering and I was getting a little frustrated. I of course haven't thought to pray for help at this point. It's now been about 10 minutes since I was listening happily to Keane. Several cars have passed and gone on their merry way. Then I see the unmistakable outline of a police vehicle. He flashes his bright flood light in my face and pulls over with his lights flashing. I knew that when you get pulled over you are supposed to stay in the car and NOT get out. For this situation I was unsure. I opened my door halfway, pulled it almost closed. Did this again. Finally decided to get out and move towards the officer.

"Are you okay?" He asks.

"Yeah, I'm perfectly fine. No injuries."

"What happened?" Is his second question.

"I went over the railroad tracks, hit and icy patch and spun all the way over here."

"Yeah, that can happen in this weather."

He proceeds to ask if my car is damaged. If it will start up. He also asks if anyone is coming to pick me up. I tell him I am trying to get in touch with someone but having no success. I give him my license and he calls in my info and the situation. During this I sit in my car to stay warm and I try to call Mom and Dad again with no success. I even try Kirsti again. I think about calling Steven and remember that he's at work. Holly, maybe? No, I don't have her number. I even thought about my home teachers but decided against it. Another police car pulls over. I groan. I feel a little embarrassed. The officer sends the other on his way (this officer is a sheriff by the way). He asks if I got in touch with anyone. I shake my head but say I'll reach someone eventually (I'm not very sure in my words).

"Well, I don't want to leave you here in the cold. Let me mark your car so they know someone has been here and I'll give you a ride home. You can call someone to get your car tomorrow morning."

I agree and he makes room for me in the front seat of his vehicle. Wow! I've never ridden in a police car before. I got to sit in one briefly that horrid summer me and Elise and her roommate drove home form Utah (he fixed our tire while we sat in his air conditioning). He went and wrapped some yellow sheriff tape around the antenna of the car and then got back in his vehicle. I gave him my address and some general instructions. Then I sat in silence listening to all the beeps and whirs his equipment made. We didn't speak much.

"So, how many times did you think, 'Oh crap!' while it was happening?" he asked me once we got back onto 63-north. I smiled a little and actually chuckled.

"None, actually. I think my mind was pretty blank. I just kept thinking I was going to hit something. It's amazing that I didn't." I was honest and wondered at the fact that no curse words went through my mind as I spun out of control. I'm sure that most people in the world couldn't say the same. There was more silence. I gave him more instructions as we got closer. He pulled into my drive way and said "have a good evening" as a farewell.

"You too," I answered.

I never even found out the officers name. It was the last thing on my mind at the time.

I went through the door and almost immediately told my story to Holly. She sympathized and was awed that nothing worse happened. She also expressed her worry at traveling the following day. Shortly after that I went upstairs. I was still a bit shaky from all the adrenaline. I dropped all my things on the bed and immediately fell to my knees.

And then I wept. Not only wept. My body was wracked with the sobs of a person with the fullest of hearts. In my mind I could not think of words appropriate to express my gratitude to Father in heaven for his hand in the nights events. I think I even laughed a little in amazed relief.

So there is the story.

To give you a little bit of follow up, I got my car off the hill. Mom and Dad went with me early in the morning and Pushed while I pumped the gas. It was easier than I thought it would be. My car is fine. I still need new tires like no ones business. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have spun so bad if my tires had been replaced.

I have passed the area a couple times throughout the day. Here are a few things I have noticed that make me even more grateful to my Heavenly Father.

1. There are a few signs inclusing those flashing light poles that I could ahve easi;y hit in my journey to the wroung side of the highway.

2. If I had gone much further down that hill I would not have been able to stop myself from goingall the way to the bottom. At the bottom was either a shallow bog now frozen and covered in snow or a collection of snow in the valley of a hill. I'm not sure. But I surely would ahve sustained some damage to my car.

3. Thank goodness it was as late as it was and traffic was minimal. I'm pretty sure that I would never be able to forgive myself for injuring another person in an accident.

As of 6:45 am, the highway had been cleared but that stupid icy patch was still there.

I'm sure many would say that this is an anticlimactic story. I was, after all, unharmed and my car undamaged. Nothing more exciting than me spinning happened. But for me it was a very significant event. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. I didn't see my life flash before my eyes. I'm not particularly motivated to live my life more fully now (though the fact that I am alive is more wonderful to me now). It simply happened and it did have a significant effect on me.

I'm not sure that I learned a lesson. I guess I could have been a little more careful on the road. I should have slowed down at the railroad tracks.

I'm just glad that the story has a happy ending.

I recall someone in the family commenting on how blessed we all have been to have had no horrible tragedy in our family. We have lost people and grieved. But of the "Missouri Lambsons" we are all still alive and well. I have been recently wondering-if there was a tragedy in the family when would it occur and to whom? (Morbid, I know). I'm just glad that it wasn't me and it wasn't last night. Although I would much rather it be me than anyone else in the family.

On that note, I am going to bed.

I love you all, Family. I am so greatful to have you all in my life. I'm not sure how I would make it through my life without each and every one of you. Thanks for being people I can't wait to spend eternity with.


Peeser said...

Wow. It sounds very similar to an experience Mom, Dad and I my senior year- we were driving to Virginia to check out a school there. It was raining, though, so we hit a puddle instead of an icy spot- but I remember distinctly the spinning many times out of control, over both lanes of I-70, through the grassy median, into the other lane, facing the wrong way. Fortunately, Dad had enough presence of mind to pull BACK into the median to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic. However, we were stuck in the mud until one very generous passerby with a large truck (larger than the Ranger, anyway) and a canvas tow strap stopped to help us out. Pretty freaky experience. I was so thankful at the time that we hadn't hit a spot in I-70 where the medians change from grass to concrete barriers. I am so thankful now that you, to, were so blessed. I am glad you are well, not hurt, and that your car seems to be functioning. I love you!

Beckie said...

Sarah, that was not at all anti-climatic. As someone who is getting this info for the first time on your blog, I was terrified for you. That is my greatest driving fear (many dreams about it but it has never happened personally) and you lived it. Seriously, my heart was in my throat imagining how horrible it must have been for you. And I was outraged that at your moment of true need, no one was answering their phones.

I am sooooooooooo glad you are okay, your car is okay and everyone else is okay. It is an amazing story, only because you escaped from it essentially unscathed.

Julina said...

except you *can* wait to spend eternity with us... and thankfully, we all still have some waiting ahead of us (on *this* side of the veil :-)

Your account was well-expressed, as well - you probably think you didn't do it justice, but it was as good as someone who hasn't been through the experience can get.

Little did I know when I texted you about being careful on Wed that you really needed it the night before.

Love you- talk to you soon :-)

Jeanne, the mom and grandmom said...

I am now keeping my cell phone on in my room all night so, should a call like Sarah's ever come at some future time, Dad or I will hear the ring and wake up. Sorry, again, Sarah, that no one heard the phone ring.

Erin said...

That is a very scary experience! I am so happy you're not hurt and as a bonus your car is okay too. I know those feelings after an accident - especially when you get over the shock and your emotions catch up to you. It sounds like you handed everything as best you could, sometimes accidents happen unfortunately.

Again, I'm so happy you're okay!!!

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