The night of the accident was strange. I had rehearsal late with one of the groups I lead and the security guard came upstairs to let us know that there was a robbery at gunpoint one block over. Typically, I walk out with one of the members and wave goodbye, but that night for safety reasons I dropped her off. I’ve never had that happen before. This was a first. As I got in my car, I was scared. As I pulled onto the expressway, I was scared. I remember calling my husband on bluetooth and telling him how off I felt and how shook up I still was from knowing what could have been. Sometimes I park one block over and am nervous about walking back to my car. I told him how weird it was and then in an instant, the accident happened.
The fear was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I’m not saying this to scare anyone else, I’m writing it because I didn’t know I could be that scared. I am a fairly fearful person. Spiders. Airplanes. Heights. I used to have terrible nightmares as a kid and every once in a while as an adult. I’ve had my moments of panic, anxiety, and uncontrollable fear, but this. This was something I can’t put into words. I was surprised and so was my husband to hear me scream at the top of my lungs as my car was pushed out of control into the ditch and while I continued to drive to keep the car in control. I was scared and thought to myself as I screamed, “Is this it? After all of this, this is how it ends. In fear? In sheer terror?” As I recently lost one of my 3rd grade elementary students in a similar car wreck, I thought, “Is this how she felt? My God, please let this not be how she felt.” After the car stopped moving and I was able to put it in park, I thought, “What happened to the life flashing before my eyes moment? What happened to the feeling a presence as I careened into the eerie looking wilderness on the side of the road? What happened to the ‘Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil?’ “I was so confused and to be honest a little angry that I had made it through this awful experience and yet all I had felt during it was pure and utter terror. I consider myself to be quite spiritual and had always thought when people pass there is something or someone that is there to help them. I was and am terrified at the thought that I didn’t see any of what I thought I would.
It was only after the accident that I started to think about it in a different way. I saw the state of my car as they pulled me out onto the backboard, I saw how it was positioned in the ditch as I waited to get help, I saw and felt how little I had been hurt. I saw how easy it was for me to leave the hospital that night rather than stay. I saw in the days after how literally every other place on the expressway was a ravine or larger ditch than the one I was in. Someone was watching over me that night. Someone was with me. Maybe more than one person. Maybe a collection. I am certain I was in the palm of God’s hand and yet I am still haunted by the fear I experienced.
When I spoke to my Mom about the fear she said something like, “Maybe you experienced it so you could stay focused, so you could do what you had to do to survive.” I think she’s right. Maybe in the times that we survive we experience the most fear to focus our adrenaline. I hope that’s true. I sincerely hope that each person who leaves this world unexpectedly doesn’t have to experience that level of fear.
What I am trying to hold onto is that feeling that I was truly blessed. Blessed to be able to stay in control of the car and not flip. Blessed to have had a person pull over after witnessing the accident and check to see if I was okay before emergency crews had arrived. Blessed that I had the accident where it was. Blessed that the emergency responders took great care of me. Blessed that I can even sit here and ponder this. I am a walking miracle. I hesitate to say that for fear of people saying I’m crazy, but I really feel it to be true. I am truly blessed.