That’s the topic for this post. Have you been involved in death?
Let me be clear. I’m not talking about being there when someone’s died but being a cause of his or her demise. Police officers and soldiers have this distinction and sometimes, unintentionally, ordinary people such as myself.
April 8, 2009 is a date that will always stay with my family and me. It was a beautiful spring day, a Wednesday as a matter of fact, and my family and I had just left Comic City, Too. CC2 is where we used to go every Wednesday to pick up the new comics for the week. It was a great family outing that all once looked forward to. It’s not like that now.
We sat in the turning lane, waiting for the chance to merge when a maroon Buick 88 drifted into our lane. We were both looking over our shoulder and were about to merge when we looked forward and saw the vehicle hurtling toward us.
“Hurtling” is a good as word as any. At 50mph with very little time to move it doesn’t get any more accurate.
“Jason, look out!” Tabitha screamed at me. The last thing I remember was saying, “I can do this,” as I saw the vehicle. At moments like that, you don’t remember a driver but you sure as hell remember the vehicle. What came next was what makes true horror.
The impact pushed us from the center turning lane, across two lanes of traffic and onto the shoulder. I was knocked unconscious for who knows how long and the first thing I saw was a Metro Nashville police officer telling that help was on the way. Let me say that life is funny. Seven years earlier this same police officer filled out a robbery report for us when someone broke into our home. Twice he’d been there at a traumatic time for us.
I remember Tabitha checking on me, followed by Mark, the owner of Comic City, Too.
Poor Mark had finished checking out another customer when one of the other regulars mentioned to him that we’d just gotten into a wreck. Mark is like me; he needs to drop a few pounds but everyone there that day says Mark was like the Flash when he dashed out of the store. It shook him up to see what had happened. It shook everyone up.
I remember asking about the other driver when the paramedics arrived. “He’s gone,” said one. “We’re concentrating on you now, brother,” said another. Make no mistake; I wailed like a banshee. A man had died and I was involved. That kind of leaves a mark on you, you know?
What took everyone by surprise was that I was torn between tears and laughter. “I’m alive!” I cried out as they formulated a plan on getting me out of the vehicle. The paramedics froze, eyes wide in surprise. “You okay, brother?” asked one. “Yes,” I answered before declaring I was alive once more. The same medic took my watch from the backseat later and told my wife that I was going to be fine and that he liked me. Seems I make an impact where ever I travel.
It took the fire department 45 minutes to extract me from the vehicle. It was the longest moment of my life. I was covered in my own blood and the destroyed windshield was inches from my face. Not six or eight, which is close enough but two, maybe three inches.
I’ve always been a bit of a believer though not a church going man. Last time I spent time in a church I was getting married and that was back in 1999. No, I still don’t go to church but I believe more in God than ever before. That and the structural integrity of a 1997 Ford Taurus.
I heard, “You should be dead” from many police and paramedics that day. “When we roll up on an accident like yours, we’re sure to find multiple fatalities” was another thing I heard a lot that day. Six people involved, one dead and five injured was the end result.
The gentleman wasn’t wearing his seat belt but we were. I suffered a severed vein in my left elbow, severe swelling of the entire left arm, a severe concussion, busted nose, and my watch tore up a flap of skin to the bone of my forearm before landing next to the back window. Yes, the impact tore my watch off my wrist. The next day I sneezed and tore a hole the size of a fifty-cent piece in my diaphragm. One sneeze did that. My doctor informed me that a herniated diaphragm is a normal injury in automobile accidents like ours.
Physically we were lucky. Sarah, my daughter who’s seven now, was wearing sandals and glass cut the toenail on her left foot’s big toe down to the quick. She also as a scratch under her left eye. She was behind me and the window was rolled up. That window also blew in on her.
Emily was between Chris and Sarah in the backseat. For the longest time afterwards she would tell me to look out whenever a car got close. She saw everything. She also had severe belt burns on her neck and groin.
Christopher was the luckiest. He had no injuries short of belt burn like Emily.
Tabitha was nothing short of amazing. She not only jumped out to get the kids to safety but also kept her wits about her. She suffers from a jaw that hasn’t worked the same and has a problem with driving anywhere that is more than five miles away.
It was a terrifying time for us all. At the back of our minds was whether I would go to jail or not. Vehicular manslaughter was the big thing in my mind. Right from the off though, the officers on the scene and investigating the crash said they could tell that I did nothing wrong. Still though…
The other driver, who will remain anonymous out of respect, died either at the scene or a split second before impact. Does it matter though? I don’t have survivors’ guilt but to me I was still involved in his death. One moment in time is enough to change how you view things forever.