It was a warm and sunny day on April 2, 1991. I'd decided to take my hour-long lunch break and drive home which was only about a 15 minute trip one-way. After enjoying my lunch and tidying up my place, I headed back to work. As I was driving in the left lane of a long stretch of major highway, I noticed ahead a car and large heavy work truck in the paved area of the median, waiting for the road to clear so they could pull into traffic going in my direction. I noted immediately that instead of the truck waiting behind the car for its chance to pull in, it actually went around the car, blocking its view.
Suddenly as if time had stood still, the truck pulled right out into the left lane and hit me. I tried to get my car under control but it was useless considering the speed I was going (which was in fact within the limit) and the force in which the heavy truck hit me. My car spun around and hit the grassy median that separated the two lane highway heading north and south. It all seemed like a dream, time slowed down yet it went so fast. Once the tires went off the road into the median the car flipped and I began rolling over and over until the car finally stopped very close to the two lanes heading in the opposite direction. When I finally stopped rolling, I was trapped upside down with my seat belt holding me in and cutting into me. My arm was trapped outside the drivers side window, I could feel blood pouring from the side of my head and I felt like I was going to pass out. I vaguely remember my radio blaring something really loud, the song I can no longer remember.
I smelled fuel and I heard voices around me. The smell of the fuel panicked me more than anything because I guess I'd seen enough movies to know what can happen. As I tried desperately in vain to free myself from my vehicle I heard a number of voices around me, one of them was Steve, a guy I worked with. He'd been in his truck and several vehicles behind me when the crash happened. Suddenly my left arm felt like it was on fire and it was then I realized that the car had landed in a pile of vicious fire ants. These weren't just your ordinary small ants either, these were the large fire ants. And they were crawling up my arm and biting me. My arm was on fire, it started to swell up and Steve noticed immediately and ran to his truck and got his Igloo cooler full of cold water and brought it over and began pouring it over my trapped arm to cool me and relieve some of the pain of the bites. My head was hurting terribly and I felt like I was going to pass out. I heard the sound of rescue vehicles and even though it seemed like an eternity, eventually fire rescue was able to cut me out of my seatbelt and ease me out of the car and into an ambulance. I vaguely remember the trip to the hospital.
Fortunately the CT and MRI showed no serious permanent damage. I suffered no broken bones or fractures. I suffered a severe concussion and had lacerations on my head and behind my ear so bad that it took numerous stitches to sew the ear back in place, which is hidden because of course the stitches were behind my ear. Also had stitches on the top of my ear, which if you look closely you can see a slight difference between the left and right ear, but I have long hair so nobody's ever noticed it. My left arm was swelled up to three times it's size and my face and body were scraped and bruised all over. I was in pain for weeks afterward. Films of my neck and back showed desiccation (loss of fluid) between a few upper disks which I indicated the possibility of problems later on, though I've been lucky and haven't had any serious problems. Given that horrific accident, those were the only physical injuries I suffered.
The emotional anguish was something that took a long time to get over. Mom and grams drove down to see me when I'd gotten out of the hospital and they took me to the salvage yard to retrieve my belongings from my car, which was at just 18 months old, a total loss. It was when I saw the car that I lost it and I'm sure mom remembers that day well. I just started bawling as I looked at my car and realized how lucky I was to be alive. The guy had hit my car on the left side and his bumper had torn the metal near the gas tank. The drivers side roof was crushed in while the passenger side received hardly any damage. There was blood all over the drivers side. I could see what was left of the seat belt. I suddenly felt damn lucky to be alive.
The state trooper who was at the scene had come to see me in the hospital and told me I was damn lucky because witnesses said my car rolled a number of times and he said had I not been wearing my seatbelt I surely would have been thrown and probably died.
For a long time after that I had a fear of driving in the car without having the window down next to me. My claustrophic fears were heightened. I would not ride in a car with power windows or power door locks (I still won't buy one that has them). I've always worn my seatbelt (thanks to grams who, when I was a teenager learning to drive, stressed the importance to me over and over again), but I have this fear of something happening to me even if I pull out of a parking lot without my seat belt.So where I goes, it goes on. I also am still paranoid, though to a lesser extent all these years later, when I see people waiting in the median to pull into traffic. I am always very cautious and try to avoid being in the inside lane in those situations.
There's one more thing I must add to round out my story.
The day before my accident was April Fool's Day. I had gone home for lunch and on my way back, I spotted my best friend Mike who worked for Pepsi-Cola, he was delivering Pepsi to a convenience store as part of his manager's training. I honked to him and we waved but didn't stop to say hello as I was in a hurry. I called him later that day and played a joke on him. I said,
"Hey Mike you won't believe what happened but some asshole hit my car and totaled it."
After the incident that took place the next day, I never made a joke like that ever again.
Looking back, I can't believe it's been 20 years since that fateful day. The only way I could ever rationalize what happened to me was by simply believing it just wasn't my day to die.