December 25, 2010 § 2 Comments
Eight years ago, my family was on our way home from a family dinner at the home of some friends who lived in Hoffman Estates, a good 45 minutes away from our own Chicagoan suburb. It was a cold and blustery night; snow and ice covered the ground as more of it blew furiously from the dark sky. My family & my aunt’s family crowded into our green Dodge Caravan, with my parents in the front, my aunt and uncle in the front, and my brother sitting between my cousin and I in the backseat.
We settled in for the customary long drive home. Some of us had probably even fallen asleep somewhere along the endless highway with the other bright headlights.
Suddenly, our world spun, my mother yelled, and just as quickly, everything stopped. We found ourselves on the left shoulder, pressed against the concrete wall of the median, facing oncoming traffic. The van had slipped on ice, swung from the rightmost lane across three lanes of traffic while turning a full 180 degrees, and crashed into the divider.
We sat, stunned.
“Are you guys okay?!” my mom asked urgently, turning around to look at us. My cousin had a bloody nose from thumping his head into the window, but we were otherwise unscathed.
The three of us sat quietly in the back as my dad and uncle went outside to assess the damage and probably call roadside service. I couldn’t properly process what had just taken place.
“What were you thinking when it happened?” my mom directed toward the backseat.
“God, please save us,” I blurted. I don’t think anything was actually going through my mind when we spun out, but that’s what I probably should’ve been thinking.
“Oh, that’s good,” she murmured, turning back around.
Soon enough, a tow truck showed up, its headlights shining into our grounded vehicle. There was a sizable dent on the right side of our minivan, but the car was otherwise okay, so we slowly made our way back onto the road.
“Imagine if there was a semi truck right behind us,” my mom mused. “We could’ve been dead right now. Thank goodness the road was somewhat empty.”
Yes, we could’ve been mangled and bleeding on the highway. It’s probably my closest encounter to a near-death experience; I don’t really count it because it’s not like someone saved me from drowning, but I guess the possibility of death was still pretty high.
Nobody received any visible trauma from that night, but I don’t ever remember being afraid of being in a car before that, even though I had once banged my nose on the hard plastic armrest of our old sedan because I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when my dad braked.
We’ve been on the road many times after that, and in worse weather too. Hard ice crusted on the road on our way to Florida in 2004, and I was almost too tense to sleep for fear of another accident. I lay awake in the backseat despite the 20-hour drive and prayed fervently to God that He would keep my dad awake and alert. When we drove up a mountain in Hawaii in 2007, I pictured our car sliding over the side of the curving road, tumbling into the empty space below.
Even on our trip to and from Wisconsin these past few days, my mind buzzed with stress at the feeling of the snowy, uneven road beneath our tires. My overly active imagination uncontrollably envisions the worst-case scenario. Our car is going to slip the next moment. Or the next. Maybe around this bend, where we’ll cause a pile-up of Final Destination proportions.
I don’t think I realized this lingering insecurity until the drive back from Wisconsin. Our windshield wipers worked to clear our window of snow particles as my dad made jokes (“Come on, truck, drive faster!”), and I cast my gaze about nervously while typing these words onto a Microsoft Word document, afraid that even as I wrote, my MacBook would be ripped out of my hands by the force of another car smashing into us, bracing myself against the possibility of being the sole survivor of a tragic car accident.
My imagination is morbid, but I guess I’m emotionally preparing for the worst, whether it’s deliberate or not. I wish I just had peace.