Has anything traumatic ever happened to you? Describe the scenes surrounding a particular event.
The most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me was an auto collision
that I was in a few years ago.
On April 16, 2008 I was driving to work on a busy street, stuck, as usual, in a long line of cars waiting for a light to change way up ahead. Positioned at the bottom of a shallow valley I was minding my own business when behind my car came a loud crashing sound. It's a very particular sound actually. You've probably heard it. You know, the sound of a dump truck when it hits a pothole or something when all of its loose parts make a metallic banging, rattling sound? Except this time it was that sound, amplified a thousand times as it hit several cars behind me. I remember looking up into my rearview mirror and all I could see was puffs of steam and smoke as the front grille of a big red dump truck came at me, hitting several cars in its path, aimed directly at me.
What had happened was that higher up on the hill a flatbed truck cut off the dump truck, and in an attempt to avoid hitting it, the dump truck swerved, lost control, and barreled through 15 cars, literally, including mine.
Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. I was one of 4 people taken to hospital for minor injuries. I had my right knee x-rayed because it had gotten jammed up against the dashboard of my car, the violence of the collision was so severe. Thankfully I wasn't permanently physically damaged. I still have a small scar on my right knee.
I remember looking up at the rearview, screaming in terror, whipping my head around to confirm what I was seeing behind me, screaming again, then covering my head with my arms as I looked forward again because I knew, I just knew that the distance between my stopped car and the white van in front of me meant that I was about to be squished between them. I screamed because I knew, in that instant, that I was in serious trouble...and I screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
Thankfully the universe was looking out for me that day, and the dump truck swerved at the last moment, swiping the car behind me away and clipping the back of my car, pushing me into the van in front of me, demolishing the front end of my car, setting off the air bags.
I screamed for a long time I think. Long enough for the silence to be deafening when i finally stopped. I was in shock. And as I gasped for breath (the smell and taste of the airbag deploying - I remember that too...) the driver of the white van came to lead me out of my car and over to the sidewalk on the opposite side from all the destruction. People were worried that I was hurt, but I was just freaked the fuck out.
Other people had it worse. At least one car was t-boned and pushed from behind me into the lanes going into the other direction. That person wasn't seriously hurt either.
I remember watching the news later and hearing one of the first responding officers say that they drove up to the scene expecting people to have been killed, and they were shocked that there were only minor injuries.
The Universe was looking out for all of us that day. This I know.
At the end of all this, even this many years later, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've driven down that stretch of road since. Certainly, whenever I hear that sound, I instinctively whip my head around toward the source. I think it will be many more years before my fear of the sound of a dump truck driving by fades. I could have died that day.
Sometimes I think I did, and that every day since then has been a dream, or that I'm in heaven. My perfect life that I had always dreamed of, marriage, kids, blue sky, a bowl of cherries...all a dream. Beautiful, but not real...
Every day since then has been a gift for sure. This I know.
I could have died that day.
And I remind myself often to treat each day as a gift.
Because it is.
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