I've been in two serious automobile accidents with two totaled cars. I was carried away from one and walked away from the other. The first I don't remember at all and in the second I remember feeling very calm like maybe it was just my time. I believe it is the near misses that are the scariest, especially when you have your children with you and are not behind the wheel, which is the incident I remember as being heart-clenching, breath-stopping scary.
Our family was making a Christmas journey from our home in Missouri to see family in Michigan, and while there was snow and ice on the ground, the roads had been dry all the way. Bill decided to take I-55 north to catch I-80 up to I-94 into Michigan. I can't remember what I was doing in the passenger seat, or what our two kids were doing in the back seat, sleeping or reading maybe. As Bill took the ramp off I-55 onto I-80 I looked up as the car changed directions. The very long ramp was dry and our car was at least a quarter-mile behind a corvette. As te neared the I-80 merge lane the ramp curves, and as a clear view came into sight, the corvette accelerated and must have hit a patch of ice. It started spinning. I gasped, and my foot hit the break, which wasn't on the side where I sat.
The corvette came to a stop in the merge lane to I-80, but also partially into the right lane of I-80 facing westward toward oncoming I-80 traffic and in our car's direct path. Now on the icy patch ourselves, our car didn't have room to stop.
Bill veered the car to the right edge of the merge lane. The car hit more ice and snow and also twirled and slid onto the right lane of I-80, but we missed the corvette. Two semi-trailer trucks, one in each lane of I-80 were barreling down the road toward us. Bill backed down the road, hit the breaks, and we twirled a half circle into the correct direction, and he gunned the engine, accelerating the car to faster than the approaching trucks. The corvette driver finally moved, shooting his car across I-80 and onto the median just before the trucks reached him. Everything happened in just a few seconds, but everything also turned out okay. After several breath-catching moments of silence, a few comments on close calls, we continued safely to Michigan.
For such a brief situation, the less-than-a-minute experience has stuck in my memory. Bill's version of events is a bit different, as I'm sure our children's memories. I do know Bill's driving ability saved us. Why do so many wonderful, good, positive experiences disappear into synapse oblivion, while one so short should endure so long? Fear.
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Heidi M. Thomas