30 Seconds can change your life. Sunday evening as I was coming home from work, I had no idea that in a few moments 30 seconds would change my life. It was dusky out, and raining and I was listening to “Free Falling” and driving home a little red car was in front of me and a little white car was in front of them, leading the parade of after 6 o’clock traffic home. I saw a white truck coming around the corner coming towards us traveling the opposite direction and the little white car brushed against it. It looked like a kiss. A light little nudge that changed everything. The truck turned sideways, skidding towards me, losing control. It went parallel, taking up both lanes of the 2 lane road. I didn’t have time to think. I just moved. I don’t remember the action, but remember the wet grass and how I was drifting in it. He skidded right past me. Eyes locking. His eyes were filled with absolute terror, as I’m sure mine were. He was so close, I could have rolled down my window and touched the hood of his truck. I thought I was going to die. It was probably less than a second, but in that brief little tick of the clock we locked eyes and we both knew “We are about to die.” After he passed, the white car braked, then the red, then me. My seat belt caught me. I watched in my side mirror and then rear view mirror as this truck flipped. He flipped, and flipped, and flipped again. The truck then skidded across the pavement towards the other cars behind us. Sparks flew up as the giant metal truck skidded against the road. Some cars were turning around, and the red car moved forward. I wasn’t thinking. I just drove. I wasn’t sure I was alive. The reality that that had happened was too much for my brain, I suppose. I just kept touching my arms and saying to myself aloud “I’m okay?? I’m Okay?? I’m Okay. I’m Okay. I’m okay??” I remember as I was watching the truck flip I kept thinking “God, please be okay. It’s okay. Be okay. Be okay.” I dialed 911 and threw the phone in the passenger seat on speaker phone. I was crying hysterically, dry heaving, and I don’t think actual words came out of me. 911 operators are absolute saints, and how they keep their composure hearing people in the worst moments is amazing to me. I kept saying “I didn’t know what to do. I left. I left.” She calmly asked if I was involved or hurt, and I said no. She took my name and said I may be called by an officer later as a witness, but it was okay to go home. I don’t remember going home. I remember arriving at home and not being sure where I was. I remember the rain hitting my skin and thinking “I’m not dead. I feel the rain. I’m not dead.” I don’t remember parking my car, or unlocking my gate. I don’t remember opening my door or turning off my alarm. I remember realizing I had thrown up on myself. I texted my husband “Emergency. Please call. Real emergency. Call. Please call. ” over several texts. I then called my sister. I don’t remember all that we talked about, just that I kept asking her if I was alive. I know how crazy this sounds now, but in that moment, I needed to talk to someone. I needed to know that they could hear me and that I was really THERE. I thought “Maybe this is how the world breaks it to you when you die? Maybe you just keep going at first, like it didn’t happen, before your angel or the universe sits you down and gives you the bad news. Like a doctor telling you that you’re sick.” She tried to calm me down, and said she would call my mom who lives much closer to me than my sister does. My husband called me back and he also tried to calm me down and told me to take a warm shower, that I was in shock. I hung up, and I paced. Remembering the man in the trucks face. Thinking he’s someone’s Daddy. Remembering his brown eyes that were filled with more fear than I’d ever seen. I forgot how to shower. I knew that I needed to, but I didn’t know what that meant. I got in fully clothed at first, and then remembered that wasn’t how showers worked. My mom arrived and brought me something to calm me down. I told her what happened the best I could as she hugged me tight and I kept saying “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay” She stayed with me for a few hours while we tried to pull up any information on the accident. All we found was a little blurb on a site called NavBug about the accident on Old Combee Road. Vehicle Crash/With Injuries. I kept reading the words, over and over, refreshing the page. I needed to know what happened to the man. Had I just watched his last moment? I kept telling my mom. “That can’t be his last moment, Mom. It can’t. He was so afraid.” I don’t know when I finally fell asleep, but I did. I woke up yesterday hoping that the information on the site would be updated. I kept seeing his face, how scared he was. Seeing the truck flip, and flip, and flip and then skid. It was like watching a child play roughly with a toy truck. I couldn’t find any information. I called the sheriffs office, explained that I didn’t need his information, that I saw the accident and his face and needed to know he was okay. She patched me through to highway patrol, or then patched me through to the local police. She said she couldn’t give out any information on an ongoing investigation. I cried. I cried and I begged and I told her that I had seen the accident, and his eyes, and how afraid he was and that I couldn’t stop seeing it, and that maybe if I knew that he was okay, I could. That I needed to know if that was that man’s last moment. She sighed, and read the report in brief. “Accident involving 4 vehicles. White truck flipped, slid into Black SUV, woman in SUV thrown, bloody and banged up. Minor Injuries. Man suffered minor injuries. Minor injuries all around.” I cried again. I told her thank you, and I hung up. He was alive. I don’t know who this man is, or what his life is like, but I am so grateful that he gets to keep living it. I am so thankful and happy that was not his last moment. 30 seconds. He gets more seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years. He gets more time. I hope he uses it well. I know I will.
I’ll never get to meet this man, I’m sure, but maybe putting this out into the universe to him, it will reach him in some way.
Dear Brown Eyes,
I saw your eyes darken and the fear take them over, and I watched as your truck did the unthinkable and flipped like a toy. I hope that in that moment you had peace and that you live every day better because of those 30 seconds. I hope you dance to every song you hear, not just your favorite. I hope your eyes never fill with fear again, and that the only tears you shed are grateful and happy ones. I hope that you choose to live with love and abandon now instead of fear. I hope you live, and live well, and happy. I hope that you hug your family and friends more often, and you smile at every stranger you see. I don’t know why I was there, or why I got to see you in your worst moment. I hope that when we locked eyes you saw that I was afraid too. For both of us. I hope you found peace is knowing someone else was there, just like I did. I hope you have so much love in your life that you have no time for anything else. I don’t know how you made it out of that alive, and I’m sure you don’t know why either, but don’t question it. Make the most of every second, because every second can change your entire life. We both know that now. I’m so glad you’re okay.
Green Eyes in the PT Cruiser.
Thanks for reading. I hope everyone drives a little more carefully, and with a little more compassion. Cars are not just tools from getting from place to place, they are shells that protect us as we get there. When you take turns a little too fast, or speed, or reach down to check your phone, you’re not just taking your own life in your hands. You are risking the fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, children, and people who have their own families and lives that are driving around you. Be safe, but not fearful. And most importantly, love everyone around you. Make changes if you’re not happy, because 30 seconds can change everything.
Love and hugs,