Monday, April 23, 2012

One Year Later: looking back at my car wreck

April 16, 2012 was a pretty chill day. I had a low-key day at work. Nothing much happened and I had a fairly relaxing evening. It wasn't until I got home later that night and started thinking that I realized that day was the one-year anniversary of one of the most hectic days of my life.

April 16, 2011 was one of the craziest days I've ever had. Driving to Princeton from Morgantown, in the middle of a torrential rain storm, I hydroplaned on the interstate and flipped my car over in the median. I was uninjured, but trapped inside my car. Luckily, somebody pulled over and called 911 and some emergency workers came over and got me out.

That's the short story of what happened that day. For the long version, check out this link to a blog I wrote just a couple days after the incident. It's titled "Wanna know how I spent my Saturday?" -

I guess the most important lesson that anybody can learn from my experience is to wear your seat belt. I did, and I guess it saved my life. It definitely made things a lot better. As the car flipped over and came to a stop, I wasn't jostled around; my glasses didn't even come off my face.

Only two things of interest happened that could be considered "bad" and that was 1) I got a teeny, tiny scratch on my wrist as I was crawling out of the car (it didn’t even bleed) and 2) a piece on my old, shitty walmart-brand shoes I had bought two years ago broke and I had to stop wearing them.

So, while I was fine, there was one casualty from the wreck - my horrible looking, worn out walmart-brand shoes.

That was a crazy day. It has still sort of perplexed me how I remained calm throughout the entire ordeal of going off the road and flipping over. I didn't scream, I didn't panic. I just sat there as the car flipped over, then unhooked my seatbelt and sat on the ceiling of my car, which at that point had become the floor of my car.

I've talked to a few people about this next aspect of my wreck. I don't think they understand it, and I don't know if anybody else really will. I'm not sure I even understand it entirely.

I have never felt more calm and more relaxed in my life than those few minutes sitting in my car, between wrecking it and getting helped out. I guess it has to do with some sort of survival thing. Sometimes when people flip their cars over they die. I didn't.

It also sort of put everything into perspective. All of my problems in life weren't important, because I was trapped in my car and could have died. I was late for work. My job sucks. I hate my apartment. I haven't graduated from college yet. I don't have enough money. None of that was important at that moment, because I was trapped inside of my car.

It felt so good to just sit there and hear silence and finally relax. It was so peaceful and nice. In the year that has passed, that level of calm and relaxation is what I strive for. I have yet to feel as good as I did for those few minutes sitting in my car. If that wreck had happened at night, I probably would have laid there and gone to sleep.

If the wreck had happened late at night, there wouldn't have been much else that I could do besides curl up and go to sleep. My phone had been sitting in my lap and when I wrecked it went into the floorboard. When the car flipped over, a pile of dirt came through the front window and essentially landed probably no more than an inch away from my chest. And when I was sitting there, I tried to find my phone and realized the dirt was covering up access to the floorboard.

Picturing it all in my head, it's still confusing as to how everything was situated. Literally, take something you're familiar with and flip it over. It messes with your head.

As I mentioned in the original blog post, I wasn't worried about calling for help. People eventually notice cars flipped over on the interstate. I couldn't get out of my car or find my phone, but I knew somebody would notice me and call for help.

I guess this is the journalist in me, or something. I wanted to find my phone and document the occasion. I wanted to tweet, I wanted to take pictures, I wanted to record a video. How cool would that be to go to YouTube and see a video of me covered in mud, sitting in the wreckage of my car and talking about it? I wanted so badly to do that. Picture my narration: "It looks like the paramedics are smashing out my back window. They're putting down a blanket so I don't get mud on myself or get cut on the glass. Hold on one second... Okay, I'm out of my car."

That would have been awesome. It sucks so bad that I couldn't find my phone.

Some people have mentioned that I was very lucky in that no other cars were on the road at the time of my wreck. As I have pointed out, I wrecked about as well as you could. I was the only one involved and I didn’t get hurt. It could have been a lot worse.

I try not to think about the "what could have been" aspect of wrecking my car. If all that dirt that came through the window had come in a couple inches more it could have hurt me. What if there had been a stick or something poking out of that dirt pile? Who knows.

While I'm fine from the wreck from a physical standpoint, I would say I'm still having some emotional issues a year later. I still don't like to drive in the rain. Every time I hit a bump when it's raining I tense up and expect the worst for a second. Then it passes and I'm okay.

Every so often when I'm laying in bed at night I'll close my eyes and recreate the wreck in my head, only with much worse results. I don't want to think about it, but sometimes it's hard to get those images out of my head.

Car-wise, I drive a 1999 Cougar now, after wrecking my 1996 Cavalier. After the wreck, my mom's boyfriend let me borrow his jeep until we found a car for me. A week or so after the wreck, my mom found a used SUV for sale. She really liked the SUV, and I've always liked her Cougar, so I bought the SUV and we traded cars.

And, so, that's where we're at one year later. I haven't been involved in any wrecks since then. Hopefully I never will again. I'll check back with you guys in a year and we'll see how I'm doing 2 years after my wreck.

Below are some pictures of my car a couple weeks after the accident.

1 comment:

  1. You should have thanked that person who called 911, were you able to find out who he is? I'm sorry about what happened to your 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier - it sure is totally wrecked, Chris, like it was stomped by Incredible Hulk, LOL. How's your 1999 Mercury Cougar so far? Be more careful next time.