“Mimi, what are you doing?”
I look up and see that I am veering off the interstate onto the median, speeding towards a guardrail scant yards in front of my vehicle. I have three granddaughters in the backseat of my car and my first thoughts are, “please God, I don’t care what happens to me, keep them safe.”
In a matter of seconds, I have to make a decision. I quickly realize that I cannot pull safely back onto the interstate and maintain control in the traffic coming up behind me. My only choice is to go into the median. It is wide here, thankfully, but trying to navigate around the guardrail and into the broad, gently sloping ravine at a high speed was a frightening prospect. I am not panicked but I am begging God, beseeching him, to protect the girls, “please, whatever happens, protect them, please put them back safely in their parents arms.” I know I cannot live if anything were to happen to a single one of them. I would never forgive myself.
I hit the brakes hard, trying not to slam down on them so hard that I would lose control. I press harder on the brakes as we are still hurtling towards the guardrail. I could not avoid the rail, clipping it slightly which was just enough to flip the car. I think we rolled over two times before landing right side up. I stay conscious throughout the entire ordeal. I remember hearing the sounds of metal banging and the girls screaming; I remember catching glimpses of them in the rear view mirror and trying to watch what was happening to them as we tumbled over; I remember being thrashed and thrown around; I remember a sharp pain in my right knee; I remember an odd odor, like new plastic. Something is in my face and I don’t know what it is until we stop and I realize that it is the airbag. To my relief, I can still hear the girls and I call out to each of them, “are you okay?”
Within seconds, other motorists have stopped and are helping the girls get out of their car seats and seat belts. People are asking me if I am all right and I remember someone trying to pull me out of the car but I am already stiff and sore and my leg is screaming at me. I tell them I think it is broken. When I am safely out of the car, I realize the girls are not with me and I can’t see them. I am frightened. I need to see the girls. I hear them. Are they okay? I am afraid one or more of them is hurt and they are not telling me. In reality, some quick thinking individuals had removed the girls in the opposite direction until it was determined that I was not badly hurt or worse.
Less than five minutes after Erin’s question brought me back into awareness, we were seated together on the side of the ravine. There were state troopers and deputies from the sherrifs department asking questions, assuring me that I had handled the car well. I never questioned how I reacted to what happened but I did question my judgment in not having pulled over a second time during the trip from their home in Bossier City to mine in Monroe, on the other side of the state. I had stopped once during what is normally a 90 minute drive because of fatigue but realized shortly after getting back on the road that I was still not fully focused mentally. To this day, I don’t know if I went to sleep or was in a road trance, it doesn’t matter. I should have stopped. Somewhere, anywhere, even if it were just on the side of the road until I was more alert. I pushed on because we were less than 30 miles from my home. I thought I was okay. I wasn’t.
We were taken to a local hospital by two ambulances. Erin and Emily, the two older of my granddaughters rode together in one and Sarah and I in the other. We were x-rayed, scanned and treated royally by the staff in the emergency room. The girls amazed everyone with their ability to communicate not only their necessary personal information but to also give a detailed account of what had happened. The doctor on call told me that each of them had expressed more concern for me than for themselves and that each of them was remarkably calm, mature and intelligent, but I already knew that.
All this happened on December 23, 2000. The flashbacks started almost immediately for me. I experience that accident over and over in my mind, although the frequency of the flashbacks occurring has lessened, they still bring the memory so sharply into focus that it is just as frightening as the day it happened. I just had another one moments ago and that is why I am writing this entry. Most often, they occur when I drive that same stretch of road as I often do to visit my daughter and her family. This one today came from nowhere as I haven't experienced a flashback in ages. I will never get away from the horrible knowledge that my actions, my decisions put three of the most important and precious people in my life at risk. We all walked (in my case, limped) away from a car that day, that was totaled and beyond repair. We were safe after a potentially deadly accident with nothing more serious than some bruises and a fractured tibial plateau that didn’t require anything further than wearing a full leg brace for two months. Sarah’s picture was in the newspaper the next day, lying on a stretcher before being placed in the ambulance. She was only four years old.
I continue to thank God for the outcome, for his presence that day and for answering my pleas. In my humanness, I know that I would have questioned the outcome, that I would have questioned his presence if it had been different, if my prayers had not been answered and I feel ashamed because I know better. God's presence is always there. It is not he who chooses to be absent.
I carry a human burden from this experience, something I assume is akin to survivor's guilt. Strangely, I believe the burden is the result of my answered prayer and I need God's presence more than ever to help me live my life in a way that reflects my understanding of just how different it all might have been.
I am so very thankful for the thorn.
Now playing: Born by Not By Sight (see lyrics in previous post)
Labels: Family, Flashback, Reflection