Today is the 8th anniversary of The Accident. Back in 2006 I was attending a small Christian boarding academy (high school) about 4 hours away from home. There were several of us kids from Yuma there, so the parents had worked out a carpooling system for the occasions that we came home such as holidays or Home Leaves. This particular event was a home leave, and several of us piled into the Astrovan owned by a good friend of my family, whose son and granddaughter both went to school with me. The other Yuma kid declined to go with us because he had some other plans, but a Korean foreign exchange student that was good friends with the son and on the same Acro team as the son and I joined us for the trip. He was excited, because he wanted to see more of America before he graduated and went home at the end of that school year. He couldn't stay and tour afterwards, because apparently Korea has a law that mandates all young men to do a certain amount of military service once they are done with basic schooling, and I'm also pretty sure that he didn't have that kind of money.

The stretch between Phoenix and Yuma is pretty barren and empty, but there is a town almost exactly halfway between the two, and we stopped there for snacks, bathroom break, gas, and Fred, the dad, put air in the van's tires because he thought they looked a little low. (There are SO many details that I'm omitting, but I don't feel like typing that much, and it would be a small pamphlet at least if I did.) It was not too far underway from that town that the back left tire blew out, and the van swerved then rolled and flipped several times. I was hit in the head with something flying around the interior. (I think it was the old school portable tv, the heavy ones? Or maybe it was some sort of tack because Fred hadn't emptied out the van from the last time he had been at the stables to tend their horses. I don't know; I'll never know.) The blow to the head caused me to lose consciousness and go blind for a period of time I estimate to be about half an hour, 45 minutes maybe? I was very devastated because I thought I couldn't read anymore. (A famous line/joke from the experience is when I was led to Fred after being freed from the van and I told him I was blind. I was crying about how I wouldn't be able to read anymore, and Fred comforted me by saying that he would read to me. My response was to wail, "You don't understand-- I really like to read!!" LOL)

As far as injuries go, I was blind and had a severe concussion, was having an asthma attack, had an internally bleeding mushy spot on my skull from being hit, whiplash, of course, and there was some injury to my ribs as well. Oh, and I cracked a toe. The granddaughter, A, had unbuckled her seatbelt to lean forward and grab something just as the crash happened, so when the glass window from the sliding door popped out she was thrown through the opening during one of the flips or rolls and then the van rolled over top of her. She was Life Flighted out of there (as as I) and ended up in ICU for a week with a lacerated spleen and a fractured pelvis, along with the requisite whiplash and concussion.

The two guys, J and the Korean S, had bad whiplash and S had a bloody nose. I'm not sure if they had any other injuries, but they didn't say so, and they still went to play in the tackle football game a day or two later that they had been planning on. They are both big guys-- tall, solid, lots of muscle, and sturdy-- so they were an important part of our school's team and they didn't want to let the team down by not playing. *smh* Men.

Fred threw off his lap belt when the van began to swerve and leapt into the space between front seats to help control the van, so he was unbuckled and tossed like a salad as we flipped to and fro. He also ended up in ICU for a week, but they didn't fly him out because he looked okay until after A and I flew away. He collapsed and they ambulanced him to the Phoenix hospital as fast as they could, and all I remember now of his injuries is that his spleen exploded into a bunch of pieces. SO not good. He went into emergency surgery, obviously.

When I came to after the crash itself, I was blind (blackness, everything blackness with purple lightning bolts shooting through and across in every direction) and disoriented and sooooo tired and sleepy. I tried to unbuckle my seatbelt for a minute or two but it was too hard and I couldn't do it, so I began to drift off to sleep. Turns out I was the only one in the van because A had been thrown from the vehicle, J and S jumped out as soon as the van stopped, and Fred jumped out to help as well. We landed on our side, with the driver's door on the ground, and the window beside me had broken but the blanket I was using as a pillow while I napped kept the broken glass from reaching my face or neck.

The van was steaming as it was resting and J thought it was smoke, that maybe the van was going to explode and I was still in it. Everything smelled like gas. I used to love the smell of gasoline, now I'm not so fond of it. J came in and kept me awake with talk, which annoyed me to an incredible degree, while he cut me out of my seat belts. What had happened is that Fred's lap belt got tangled up in my shoulder belt while everything was being shaken up, and I couldn't see to undo it and J felt that it would take too long. The van was about to explode, remember?! Because of my weakened state (concussion, asthma attack, shock, etc.) I was unable to lift myself out the hole above me that had been the sliding door's window, so J kicked out the windshield and took me out that way. I jokingly flutter my lashes at him and swooningly croon, "My hero!" when that story is told around him, hehehe.

There are a ton of funny and touching stories that go with all of this, and maybe I'll share a story every day or every other day this week in honor of Life and Second Chances. For right now, I'll sum up by saying that even though there were some scares and lots of camping out in the ICU waiting room, we all survived that harrowing experience with very little in the way of long term damage. It's practically unheard of! We were and are very fortunate, and that is why Fred and I like to Celebrate Life on our Anniversary, though the others (J and A) don't see the point or enjoyment of it and choose not to celebrate it. J feels very guilty because he was driving, but it could have happened to anyone. Really. A lives far away, and S is back in Korea, so… Actually, I think they are both in Korea, come to think of it! A married a military man, so…

Anyway, if nothing else at all I learned the value of every split second. We carry on as though life is assured, and rightly so I think or else we would be paralyzed by the thought of impending mortality, never enjoying a thing or being productive, but it is the realization that life and consciousness can be taken away in the space between two breaths that really gives context to the value and delicacy of life itself. For instance, yesterday was David S's birthday. My adopted dad who died of cancer last year. Yeah. The birthday of a dead man whom I loved dearly, and then the next day a Celebration of Life, another "birthday", if you will" with other people that I love dearly, who are all still here and kickin'. It's just so… puzzling. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it, except the certainty that

Life will end. Yours, mine, your fish, the Pope, and certainly that pretty caterpillar you saw last week… our lives will inevitably cease at some point. Mine could have stopped on October 25th, 2006, but it didn't, and I'm very grateful for that. My essence, the core of who I am, my conscious soul or whatever, that could be snuffed out by any number of things even while I type this blog post. But I'm still here, so I'm gonna enjoy it and try to be a good person and make life as good as I can for those around me who are still going as well. It's as much of a goal as anything else, right?

Happy Anniversary, Life!

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