21 years ago today, when I was 21, I had a bad car accident. I was taking a summer Organic Chemistry class at a nearby college and driving my mom's car. After the class, I was supposed to pick her up at school, she was a music teacher. In the parking lot, my friend Ty was pulling out too. We pretended to almost get into an accident, being silly. (Funny how you stop joking like that when you buy your own car, huh?) I drove out into a rural area to pick up my mom. I had a sweatshirt on over my shirt, because it was cold in the classrooms, so I decided to take it off while driving. I unbuckled my seatbelt, pulled one arm out of the sleeve, then the other, then pulled it off over my head. For a moment I thought I'll just leave off my seatbelt, I'm almost there, but I clicked it on. Thank the Lord.
About 2/10ths of a mile later, I was coming upon an orchard business on my right and there was a white van in the opposite lane. It appeared to be going very slowly, or to have stopped, I couldn't tell, but there was no blinker. I was travelling between 50-55 miles per hour. The speed limit was 50mph. At the last second, the white van turned quickly for the driveway of the orchard, right into my lane. I screamed in disbelief and smashed into the right front corner of a brand new Channel 10 (NBC) news van from Philadelphia.
My first impression was amazement. The seatbelt grabbed me, saved my life, it held me like a babe in arms. I couldn't believe it. My second thought, because I watched too much television I guess, was this car is going to blow up! So I got out and stood in front of the car with my hands on my mouth and looked at the damage. It was unbelievable. One moment I was driving a cool Buick Regal and the next moment it was trash to be dragged to the dump.
So I was standing there gasping and staring, totally lost in the moment, when a nice lady came out of nowhere and asked me how I was feeling. I said I was fine. Where did she come from, how does anyone know about this? She told me that she was a nurse and that I looked very pale and need to sit down. "Were you wearing a seatbelt?" she asked as she led me to her car. I said yes. "Oh, because I've never seen anyone walk away from an accident like that." She put me in the front seat of her car and that's when my neck started screaming bloody murder. Someone put a brace on me, a police officer interviewed me, and soon I was in an ambulance.
I heard my mom's voice. How did everyone get here so quickly? She climbed into the ambulance with me, never even seeing the car. And we rode to the hospital. The other people in the van, the reporter and camera man, were fine. They had been trying to find this orchard business to interview them about a new highway being built through their land. The driver said he never saw my car because he was just looking for the orchard's sign. I remember in the ambulance asking my mom why the road was so bumpy. Every bump felt like an assault to my body. And I kept trying to prepare her that her car was a loss. She sort of smiled and told me everything would be fine. My parents had never lost a car to an accident, they'd never even been in an accident.
When we got to the hospital, I was pushed into the x-ray room where the lady had me do contortions. I actually cried because it hurt so bad - and I am not a crier over pain, never have been. I couldn't believe that a person, who was supposed to know something about the body, would have me do such things after an accident like that. She pushed me out into the hall when it was done and said to my mother, "I don't know why she's crying." That's because you didn't see the accident I was just in, moron. I was in too much pain to kick her. I mean, I know she sees this every day, but what happened to her compassion!? Or manners?
I had whiplash. I went home with a brace and a prescription and a desperate feeling like I'd have to lay in bed for the rest of my life and quit college. And I kept telling my parents that their car was demolished. "Oh, I'm sure it's not that bad," they kept saying. How do you relay the force of an accident to someone who's never been in one? So they got me set up at home on pillows on the couch and ran back out to get my medicine. While they were out, they stopped at the junkyard, still not believing that their car was now junk. My father stood in the middle of the yard, looking around, asking my mother, "Where is it? I just don't see it anywhere!" "Jack, you're standing right next to it."
This is why they came running into the back door with an air of panic. "You are in shock!" They kept saying as they ran toward me. Yeah! No kidding! I'd been trying to tell them.