I was driving out to Grand Junction one Friday morning on I-70 – daydreaming about how much fun I was going to have this weekend with my friends cross country skiing.
In the blink of an eye I was quickly rattled out of these thoughts. Suddenly I lost control of my tires on the black ice and started Fish tailing. Each swing of the car got bigger and bigger until I knew I lost control. Of my steering wheel, of my entire existence.
It all happened so fast, but I’ll never forget the moment before impact when a voice calmed me. They said “you’re going to die, try to relax” At that moment I hit a guard rail on direct impact which sent my flipping over the right side of this bridge. Vail is known for their ice and cliffs. For some unexplainable reason, I did not flip off the bridge. The airbags that I LITERALLY HAD REPLACED 12hours prior detonated. My windows shattered and my phone managed to steadily play “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere”
I am surely dead. Is this what the afterlife looks like? I quickly want to be the furthest distance away from this machine that almost took me. The abrupt blare of a truck horn jolts me back into the safety of my car, despite all the exposed, broken glass everywhere.
I feel a soft throbbing pain on my head and reach up to discover my hand is filled with a small pool of blood. Suddenly I am filled with panic. What just happened??? How am I alive and without something rammed into my body?
I see a young man running toward my from his pulled over truck. I lift the flap of my deflated driver door airbag to talk to him. Tears are suddenly flowing down his eyes as he is immediately relieved to see me alive. It was as if he saw the entire scene from a distance and together we witnessed something unremarkable.
They asked me to quickly describe what happened. I said I fish tailed and sort of blacked out the rest. I didn’t actually find out until later that I flipped. Then followed a series of questions, the last setting the tone for how I would handle this entire aftermath. “Who is the current president” and I respond “Biden, but it depends who you ask” he laughed and walked me to the ambulance.
Unable to open the other doors, which were lodged in, escorted me around the shoulder of the highway into the ambulance. It was once a peaceful, still morning. Yet now at the early hour of 7am over ten people were chaotically walking around. A large clean up crew to pick up all the debris that left my car in the crash. I wonder if a fragment of my soul is to be found on the cold concrete. I was in a daze, walking toward the warmth of the ambulance as people asked me questions and walked the scene. In the ambulance they were stunned. Expecting to tell me I had a concoction. Certainly waiting for me to release the paperwork that we were all going to the emergency room to stitch the blood coming out of my head.
They thought I needed one to two stitches, but that was probably because they wanted me to get checked out regardless. In my brief experience with ambulances I just know you don’t want to ride them. What country do we live in that encourages people to avoid basic needs such as health care, in order to avoid the financial impact?
Continuing the jokes I responded “guys, you’ve been great, thank you for the blanket, but offense, I do not want to ride with you”. They first attempted to tell me that I was stuck on a highway and that I needed to find a way off. Knowing they were not my only option out of this mess, I just said, I can walk, honestly I probably need to. That’s when they said that is not safe and spoke with the state trooper to take me. I signed my release form and got shuffled into another warm vehicle.
The state trooper was young, dark and handsome. I tried to get ahold of my nerves as I watched him fill out his paperwork. That very moment felt like an out of body experience. It was as if I were dead and I was going through the daily routines of these strangers. Kind humans that were just doing their job.
He asked if I had anyone to call who lived around Vail. I almost said no, but then one name came to mind. The name of someone who immediately upon realizing I was alive, was my one call. I’ll never understand why I didn’t call my brothers or sister. Perhaps I didn’t want to scare them and this man felt like someone who would actually be there in a flash. And I was starting to realize I really needed someone there. As independent as I am, this was not a day I could have done alone, without the help of so many people.
The state trooper quickly picks up on my rush of adrenaline and wise-cracking jokes. I was quickly realizing my car may be completely totaled, $12,000 vanished into thin air, yet I was SO DAMN GRATEFUL TO BE BREATHING. He even wrote me a ticket and I thanked him.
He attempted to draw out the scene. He was incredibly perplexed and quiet staring at the paper. He then says “you flipped.” I shoot a look of bewilderment “really?”
“Yeah, check out your roof. You can see the damage. What I don’t get, is how you flipped and managed to land like that. I’ve seen many, many accidents working in this field for over a decade. Yet I have never seen something like this. You are incredibly lucky to be alive”.
I sit still, attempting to process those words. Then immediately stumble on my words as I reply “I know. I don’t know why, but I know.”
We eventually leave the scene two hours later and I am dropped off at a nearby gas station (because he can not legally take me to a hospital). I am recognized upon entered the doors as “the girl who had the big accident this morning”. The mountain town cashiers and people were very kind. The owner of the gas station brought me tea and offered to clean the goosebump on my head with hydrogen peroxide.
I shook my head yes and started crying as an overwhelming amount of attention and love swarmed me. I could feel it. He patched me up and was one of many hero’s that day.
My one phone call man drove two hours from another town when I thought he was currently in this town that morning. He saved the day and showed me again what it looks like to turn lemons into lemonade.
I am forever thankful for the kind souls the universe has placed into my life. It appears I just became a little more spiritual afterwards: I couldn’t understand why I was given this second chance, but certainly felt more purposeful because of it. In this life, it is understood that we really only get one, and we must live it to the fullest.
Yet now that I’ve been given this incredible gift of a second chance, what would I do differently? For starters I would immediately get out to the desert.
2 thoughts on “Grand Junction or bust”
Jen, what a story! We are so thankful that your survived and are safe. GodSpeed on the many journeys you have ahead. Love, Aunt Carol and Uncle Gil.
I believe Meme says “Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly” lesson learned!