This event is to huge to be just one post, so stay tuned for parts 2 & 3.
On November 11, 2003 at 7:05 pm I was travelling north on I-215 west in the far left lane, or the 'fast lane'. I had all three of my small children in the back seat of my 1997 GMC Yukon. Alexander was 5, Ashlenne was 3, and Aidan was barely 2. I was just getting ready to change lanes as my exit was a mile away when I looked up and through the windshield of the car in front of me, I saw headlights. Now the events I will describe next happened in literally two seconds. The car in front of me swerved so hard to the right it almost rolled over. I began to try and get out of the way, but there wasn't enough time. I was travelling 65 miles an hour and the person who struck me was travelling 60 miles per hour. So for those of you out there who can't add that is a combined impact speed of 125 miles per hour.
When we struck each other, our driver's side headlights matched up perfectly. It wasn't a head-on collision, but pretty close. The impact immediately deployed my airbags. My side window shattered and glass sprayed throughout the cabin of the car. If you have been in an accident where the air bags have deployed, you know how much smoke comes out with them. And honestly, one of the first things I thought was how beautiful it all was. The headlights of all the cars made the glass flying through the air light up like twinkling stars and the smoke made it all seem so ethereal. As soon as the impact occurred time slowed down to a crawl. It was almost like watching a movie in slow motion. I didn't feel connected to the events that were happening.
When we collided I actually drove up and over her car. She was driving a small 4-door sedan. The impact also pushed me into the other lanes of traffic where there were what? Yep, more cars. We were immediately hit again on the back fender, drivers side. This impact forced my car to spin around 450 degrees. That is a total of one and 1/4 times around. The force of the spin actually ripped the tires off of the car.
The force of the collision ripped the door off it's hinges so it was hanging open. When we were struck the second time and spun around I could feel the centrifugal force pulling me out of the car. The only thing that kept me in that car was a thin piece of material, my seat belt. When they towed it they had to tie the door to the car to keep it from flopping open.
After all that spinning, we finally came to rest on the right hand shoulder of the freeway. We had spun across all four lanes of traffic. I can't remember if my children made any sound during the actual accident, but I know they sure started screaming when we came to a stop. I don't remember feeling any pain at that moment. All I could think about was getting my kids out of the smoking car. I shoved my door open wide enough to climb out and as soon as my feet hit the ground I collapsed. I wouldn't know it for awhile, but my left foot and ankle were broken. I staggered back up and began to try and pry open the back doors. At this time strangers who saw the accident came to my aid. The kids climbed out and I checked them over. One of the women who ran over was a registered nurse and she started helping us out. I never saw myself, but I must have looked quite the sight because I hit that airbag pretty hard and had a gusher of a bloody nose and my lips were split in about four places. If you look close enough you can actually see my makeup print from my face hitting the airbag.
My car and the car of the person who hit me ended up several hundred feet apart. As people started gathering around me and the kids sitting on the side of the freeway I asked them "Did you see that car going the wrong way?!" All of them said "No. All we saw were a bunch of sparks and you spinning around."
Nobody could remember seeing a car coming the other direction. The nurse was busy checking and re-checking the kids. They seemed perfect so far. Not a scratch on them. The EMT's worked their way over to me. The Highway Patrol shut down the freeway. They had to use the jaws of life to cut the person who hit me out of her car. Life Flight landed 25 feet from where I was sitting. I managed to get a hold of my mom on a cell phone and she made it to the accident sight right as they were putting me in an ambulance.
This is when the pain set in. The adrenaline was wearing off and I hurt. I hurt everywhere. I don't remember it, but when the airbag blew my hands of the steering wheel, it blew my left hand right into the window as it shattered and it was now peppered with cuts and pieces of teeny-tiny glass embedded in it. Yes, it is as painful as you think. In this ambulance is where my ankle REALLY starts hurting. When we get to the hospital a Highway Patrol Officer is the first person to inform me that yes, there was a car going the wrong way. I didn't imagine it. Oh, and something else. The woman driving the car had a blood alcohol level something to the tune of .26. That is over three times the legal limit. In the emergency room the doctors ask me "Where do you hurt?" I told them my ankle so they x-rayed it and came back and said that it wasn't broken. It's just a sprain so give it a couple of days to relax and then start walking on it again so it doesn't tighten up. Then they patted me on the back and sent me home.
We spent the night at my mom's so she could keep an eye on us. I think we were all in shock. This was during Matt's first deployment so he wasn't home. It's funny, but I don't remember much of that first night, but I can remember with absolute clarity the two hours before the car accident. I remember what I was wearing. I remember what I ate. I remember the songs we listened to all the way from our home to where the accident happened. Those hours are forever etched in my mind.
This one event affected my adult life more than anything else, save for getting married and having children. It was a defining moment for me and my family. Some has actually been good, some definitely not good. Stay tuned for Drunk Strippers And Other Road Hazards, Part 2.