I was sixteen years old when I was saved. Saved from being crushed, burned alive, thrown, broken, and severed. I was not meant to die that day, I guess, or to have some permanent disability to accompany me the rest of my life. I often look back and wonder what it was, is, I am supposed to feel from that. From being passed over by Death, looked upon, dangled, then dropped and left alone.
~ – ~
On March 25, 2004 I over-corrected my sister’s car in a gravel side bank on Highway 237. I felt the back tire sink slightly, and in panic wrenched the steering wheel to the left, was met with resistance and gasped. That is all I remember clearly, the gasp, the feeling of that quick rush of air down my throat. Then I woke up to someone moaning, this scratchy, rough noise in the distance that sounded like it was in so much pain. I had the faint shadow still of my subconscious in the front of my mind, so similar to first waking from a deep sleep that I attributed everything to being a dream. I was relieved slightly, until I heard the moaning again.
This is the first time I have written of that day. I tried to put it on paper before in my college writing classes. I had hopes that an experience such as this would be the inspiration I needed to produce some wildly thrilling and poetic piece of work. Each time I attempted it fell completely short. I have come to realize I cannot write about this in any other way but clean and straight. It was not wildly thrilling, nor poetic at the time. It was scary, cold, and shattered, and the timeline was confusing. I went between the screaming reality of what had occurred to the comfort of hiding in my protective subconscious. I had no control and that was what scared me the most.
Part of me knocks the incident off as being silly and dramatic, possibly because I myself have been chalked up to being silly and dramatic a time or two. I was teased and embarrassed, sometimes publicly, for my want of attention. I could be a tad needy. Essentially I was the definition of a middle child. So from March 26, 2004 to present I have only talked about the accident in a joking matter. The bizarre car crash that landed my sister’s new Dodge Neon, with her and me in it, on top of some antique farm equipment. What better platform can you ask for to create some laughs? It was easier to chuckle it off than to talk about it in a serious manner. If I was serious then I must be seeking attention for it, and I avoid any situation that could make me seem as if I am seeking attention.
I realized pretty quickly, after that dreamy fog had cleared, that the moaning was coming from me. Still another moment passed before that moaning became a part of me and I owned it, the sound first and then the pain causing it. My knee was in distress, it throbbed with a horrific, pulsing pain. I tried to reach down and touch it but it was trapped beneath the steering wheel. There was glass all over me, shards that were glinting in the sun. My hands were bloody. You have to understand that there was no quick realization of what had happened, it was like a person handing me one photograph after another. Now I know that was caused from me slipping in and out of consciousness, at the time it was just chaos in my head.
I strained to look to the right in search of my sister. She was hanging there, slumped forward with her seat belt holding her in place. She didn’t stir, she didn’t open her eyes, she just hung there. I cannot even put into words the searing pain that cut my heart, that welled up so suddenly I wasn’t even sure how to react. I thought she was dead. I thought I had killed my sister. I remember I tried to unbuckle myself to get to her, but I never got that far.
I must have slipped back into that blackness briefly because what I remember next is my sister mumbling to me. “It’s okay, are you okay?” I had been crying and saying, “I’m so sorry, so so sorry,” over and over again. She must have woken up while I was not present. I don’t think I ever pieced together where exactly we were until later in the hospital, during the whole ordeal I just knew that somehow we were suspended in air. What I was told later by the only eye-witness was that the car went air bound and crashed against some old farm equipment, it came to a sudden stop on top of the machines. This eye-witness was the one who appeared by my driver window, he had wedged himself in-between the machine and the car. He was old, he had glasses, his face was kind.
He patted my arm in reassurance and I winced. He told me not to move that help was coming. “You’ll be okay, we’ll get you out of here.” He looked around at the mess, probably assessing how exactly that was going to happen.
I don’t remember the sound of the ambulances but the swarm of EMTs descended on the scene. The old man had left and in his place was an EMT that to me looked exactly like my middle school PE teacher. The fact that I thought he was Mr. Burns probably helped me to relax. He moved my arm and then quickly without a word began cutting off the sleeve of my sweatshirt. I remember being frantic, the sweatshirt was my sister’s, she was going to be so upset that it was ruined. Strange the things we choose to worry over in a moment such as that. I saw blood on the sleeve and felt a massive amount of pain as he quickly tied something around my bicep. When the crash happened my arm was thrown out the window as it shattered, stuck near my elbow was a piece of metal that I had apparently tried to remove at some point, probably after the old man had left. Mr. Burns was attempting to stop the bleeding.
They worked on my sister first, the access to her was easier. In the buzz and hum of all the workers the word, ‘fire’ was muttered more than once. The friction, and possible sparks from metal on metal that could happen if the car slid off, I believe, concerned them that a fire was possible. They worked quickly as I am sure they are trained to do. What if one of us had internal injuries? I heard the high-pitched squeal of metal tearing as they ripped the door off using that dramatically named tool, “the jaws of life.” I suppose a tool needs to be as dramatic as the situations it sees. I try to recall how they maneuvered my sister out, but the only thing that is clear, that still remains in my memory, is her complaint of not being able to feel her legs. Paralyzed, I thought. She is paralyzed. I kept looking down at her legs, I guess in my mind I thought that perhaps I could will them to move, to work.
There is one thing I never told my family, never told anyone for that matter, I suppose I felt that it may have been what caused this whole episode to happen. I used to wonder quite often what it was like to be in an accident. I would wonder what my family would do, how they would react. I thought it would be thrilling, the scrape against the end of life. I was immature. I had no clue what kind of mark that leaves on a person.
The moment where I felt truly scared was when I was alone in the car. They had taken my sister out, and for what seemed like forever there were no workers inside the vehicle, and my sister, my support and comfort, had been whisked away. It was the moment I became the most aware of the state I was in. I felt cold, I couldn’t breathe, and then I was gone, I had sunk into the black again.