He’s there…

God certainly has an interesting way of reminding you He’s there.

I’m wide awake, writing this at 4:30 am with a bit of stiff neck as the only reminder of one of the wildest rides I ever took in a vehicle.

As I sit here in the dark with my laptop, I wonder why it’s necessary to write all this down. I guess it’s a way of purging the day’s events from my mind — or perhaps putting it all on virtual paper helps to put the day’s events and its many blessings into perspective.

I also wonder why I feel the need to share the story in such great detail and if it’s too self-indulgent to feel the need to do that. I think many of my friends would be happy enough to know simply that we had a bad car accident today, that the vehicle is written off, but that we are fine and only suffered scrapes and cuts and sore muscles from it all.

So if that’s all you need, then stop reading here with my blessings. If you, like me, are fascinated by the details of these kinds of things, and want to know exactly what happened, then read on.

Today started bright and sunny. My lady friend Jackie and I set out for Warrenton county, a short two-hour drive, to a competency hearing for the man who shot and killed her police officer husband four years ago. She was nervous about the hearing and was appreciative of the support I would provide.

The early ride was taken up with the usual trappings of life. I had a light altercation with my daughter, Renee, on the phone about her computer at work, which I had done some work on yesterday. It wouldn’t dial up to the internet. She was a little miffed at me and my mind was largely overtaken with thoughts of that and what I could do from afar to help fix her problem. But soon, events would keep us from ever getting to the hearing and put a lot of life’s little worries in perspective.

As we traveled down the country two-lane highway, we noticed a sheriff’s car traveling a few car lengths behind us. Jackie wondered who the officer might be since she knew many of them from her days as a dispatcher. My instinct, formed over many years of driving, told me to look at the speedometer right away. I found, fortunately, that we were doing the speed limit of 55 mph.

I saw the front of the blue Nissan Sentra bearing down on us for only a fraction of a second — just enough time think “We’re not going to avoid this,” and bracing for an impact. The lady had missed her stop sign and shot out the side road on our left, hitting Jackie’sВ newВ white Jeep Grand Cherokee broadside just behind the front wheel. Because of our forward motion, the impact swept backwards along the driver’s side and pushed our Jeep into a anti-clockwise spin and, as the right rear wheel slid off the road, the spin quickly became a roll.

Because of the way the two vehicles hit, there was no bone-jarring impact like I’ve felt in prior accidents. While I don’t think I saw the vehicle starting to roll, I did feel it, and my first instinct was to pull my arms in tight across my chest and hold my seat belt as I was afraid of an errant limb getting crushed between the road and the vehicle.

After that, all I could do was hold tight, wait for the ride to stop, and hope for the best. I vaguely remember the glass shattering all around us, the contents of the cabin flying everywhere, sparks flying through what used to be my passenger window as the wing mirror ground itself away against the road.

You can see the tire mark right on the corner where the Jeep’s rear tire was pushed off the road and into the grass, which started it rolling.

As all this occurred around me, I felt a strange calm : no fear of death or injury, no thought that I might not come out of this in one piece — just hanging on and waiting for it to stop. It might be that there was no time to be scared or to think what might happen. There was only time to hang on and take what few actions one instinctively could take to save life and limb.

The speed of the vehicle finally scraped to nothing and at the last moment, the Jeep completed a slow, lazy roll back onto it’s wheels — right side up! I took a quick inventory of all my body parts and they seemed to be fine — just a few scratches on my arms!

I looked over at Jackie who was bent forward a bit in her chair with the roof slightly crushed over her head and asked “Are you alright”?

“I didn’t see it!” she answered half in tears and half in shock.

“Are you alright?” I asked again. She said she thought she was.

The sheriff who had been traveling behind us must have had to jump on his brakes very hard to miss the Sentra, which was now lying in a crumpled heap in the middle of the intersection several hundred feet behind us. In spite of that he was at the side of our car in seconds asking if we were all right. The sheriff, Lamonte, was a big fellow only recently on the job. He had to put his back into wrenching the front doors open, each of them opening with a creak.

Lamonte said the Jeep had rolled three times after the impact. Then it had scraped along on it’s passenger side before coming to a stop and falling back onto it’s wheels. He had already called for emergency help and he ran to the other car to help the two older ladies still sitting in it.

The Jeep itself was a mess and it was apparent to me that it was beyond fixing, which was a real shame as Jackie had bought it less than two months prior and really liked it. I must say that, at this point, I liked it too as it had done an unbelievable job of keeping the passenger compartment intact through the violence of the accident.

I hugged Jackie to help her deal with the sudden emotional ordeal. I noticed there was more blood appearing on our clothes than could be accounted for by my arm scratches. She had a small cut on her chin — nothing too serious, but bleeding like the proverbial stuck pig.

The EMS had arrived by this time and Lamonte herded us over to it. At that point we discovered Jackie had a pretty severe scrape over much of her head from where the roof had crushed over her. There was a pretty broad bright red patch from the middle of her head across the back and she was losing a lot of her hair from that spot. The EMS crew and I convinced her it was a good idea to get it checked out and they got her ready to go to hospital.

She was pretty angry with the woman for missing the stop sign, nearly killing us, and totaling her new beloved Jeep. At my insistence, she agreed that, if they brought the woman to the ambulance for treatment, she’d say absolutely nothing. As it turned out, the woman needed less treatment than Jackie, and the doctor told us that she would be all right.

I turned back to the scene to look for a few key things before we left. The contents of the Jeep were strewn everywhere across the hundred yards or so of the accident scene.

I had already found my cell phone in the grass minus the battery — but somehow Jackie had found the battery and offered it to me as the EMS crew checked her over. Reassembling them quickly verified that the phone still worked!

She was concerned about finding her own phone to call her parents (vacationing in Indiana). She couldn’t use my phone because the Indiana number was programmed into her’s. I was glad when, after a moderate amount of hunting by the roadside, I found her phone relatively intact and was able to return it to her in working condition.

I turned back to the debris field and picked up as much as I could, sorting out quickly what was a critical possession from what could wait. I found my leather briefcase in the middle of the road with the digital camera hanging halfway out and minus the batteries and part of the mechanism on one side. I picked up papers here and there, Jackie’s purse, and a few other things and jumped in the EMS truck to head to hospital.

Some of the emergency workers at the scene, and a photographer from the local newspaper, graciously offered to pick up the rest of our possessions and ensure that they went with the truck to the wrecking yard.

We rushed to the hospital in the EMS truck and Jackie was checked over at the hospital. X-rays and head scans revealed nothing amiss and we were released a few hours later. I’m sure there was a trail of broken glass wherever we went — we were finding pieces in our clothes, and small shards in our hair and skin all the time.

While she was receiving treatment, I was on the phone to her insurance company and getting a rental car for the drive back to Raleigh. Niki called during this time with some other news and I told her what had happened and that I couldn’t get a hold of Renee to let her know what had happened and that everyone was all right. A while later Renee called — her mother had got a hold of her and let her know. She was concerned but glad we were OK.

We went to pick up the remainder of our personal things from the car at the wrecking yard and passed the accident site on the way. We stopped and took pictures of the road, including the skidmarks and gouges in the tarmac from the rolling jeep, and the painted lines drawn on the asphalt where the two cars had come to rest. Then, at the wrecking yard, we took several pictures of what was left of the vehicle — you never can tell when these kinds of photos will be needed in a legal situation.

We drove the rental home, and Renee couldn’t have been more helpful once we were there. She insisted that we relax and she had dinner ready for us when we got there.

Today, we are both sore — Jackie more than me — but thankful that it was no worse. No one was badly hurt or killed, and even though Jackie lost her Jeep, it will hopefully be replaced.

By the way, the fellow being evaluated for competency at the hearing that originally brought us to this place was found still too incompetent to stand trial and he will be sent back to the psych center till next time. So, as Jackie said, at least he won’t be on the streets to hurt anyone else.

It’s curious to think that you can be trying hard to keep life together and be running around trying to do all the things you think are important, and God has a way of letting you know he’s still there and what is really important. Even though I did not feel in mortal danger during the accident, I still found myself afterward thinking about life, how fragile it is, and about how easy it can be to waste the short time we have here and not do and enjoy the things that are really important and worthwhile.

As cliche as it sounds, I think one reason I needed to send you this detail is to have the chance to tell my close friends and relatives how important they are to me — because one thing God demonstrated today is how fragile it all is and how quickly it can all change.

Take care of yourselves.

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