I swerved the car left than right, skimmed off the concrete barrier and then back out on the road and crashed into the rear of another car. I looked up in the mirror just in time to see a third car strike us squarely in the rear-end.
Seconds earlier my wife, daughter, our three-year-old family dog and I were enjoying a leisurely day-after-Christmas drive to my mothers. The next minute, we were sitting in our stopped car, too scared to talk, hearts pounding, wondering what exactly happened.
In a state of shock
We were fortunate. We came away from the mile-long chain-reaction accident with only a few bumps and bruises. The people in the car in front and behind of us were all uninjured. Like us, they were more shocked and confused than anything else.
Many other cars in the multi-vehicle pile-up weren’t so lucky, sustaining more significant injuries. Less than a quarter mile from us, a tractor trailer had wiped out the rear of a Jeep Cherokee. Further back, a delivery truck driver collided with a Ford Focus, pushing it into a Lincoln Continental. The road had been clear, not a drop of rain or snow, and then out of nowhere, we came across blizzard-like conditions and the road which hadn’t been treated, became one big ice rink.
An unshakeable memory
Later this December, I’ll mark three years since the accident. I’m still surprised how often I think back to it and how it still touches: the ripping sound of metal on metal and how easily — one wrong move here or there — it could have permanently changed all of our lives.
When I let it, my mind swirls with what-if scenarios. I ask myself what could I have done differently to avoid the accident. What if I drove slower? What if I took another route? What if we got an earlier start? What if I steered right, instead of left? What if I braked sooner?
I go round-and-round with different scenarios. I feel immense responsibility for the bruises we all got from the accident. In the end, I inevitably come back to the same conclusion. I’m not sure I could have done anything different. The result was the result.
For a control freak like myself, this is exact opposite of what I want to hear. I want answers that make sense, that compute and can be analyzed and acted upon in the future. Instead, I’m left to simply thank God for his grace and that we came out of the accident relatively unscathed (minus a few brain cells fighting with my insurance company.)
In the years since the accident, I find that I return frequently to my faith in God and my belief that he or she has a plan for us. While I would like to control everything, that’s just not possible.
Again it’s not the answer I want, but the best answer any of us is ever given.