Over the next few days, I will be posting about a few of the days in my life with the biggest impact. They will cover a range of emotions, and they are days I will never forget.
I’ll never forget the date, it was December 23rd, and I was 19 years old. My boyfriend and I had been down in the central valley of California on Highway 99 (a long stretch of boring highway). We were visiting his sister and her family over the weekend and we were having an amazing time. So amazing in fact, that we decided to stay an extra night and head out early the next morning (Monday), so I could get to work on time. It was a very stupid idea, but I was young. I called my parents to tell them about my plans, and they reminded me how foggy it was going to be in the valley. Of course, I decided to stay the extra night anyway.
We headed out in the morning – about 5:00 a.m. It was extremely foggy, just as my parents had said it would be. We reached the highway and it was even worse. The further I drove, the foggier it became. About ten minutes into the trip, I literally could not see where I was going. It was like there was a brick wall in front of me. Naturally I panicked but kept driving. I remember we passed a big rig, and looking back, I should have just stayed behind him.
The fog was so thick at this point, that I was almost at a standstill…I was driving so slowly, and my boyfriend was telling me to “speed up, speed up – there’s a big rig behind us”. It sounds simple enough, but when you cannot see where you are going, it is almost impossible to keep going. I remember looking in my rearview mirror and seeing large headlights right behind me. I tried to speed up and then WHAM.
The big rig had hit one of the corners of my rear bumper and we started spinning around and around for what seemed like an eternity. All I could see as I was spinning was fog. The car finally stopped spinning and we were so relieved. We were stopped facing traffic though and before we could catch our breath, another big rig hit us head on (he hit the front bumper corner) and again we started spinning out of control. Spinning and spinning eternally…it felt like we would never stop.
When we did finally stop spinning, we were in the center median which was open space with dirt. We looked at each other in shock – both amazed that we were alive and not severely injured. It is all kind of a haze after that but what I do remember is that several highway patrol officers showed up, and they told us we were lucky to be alive. Yes we were. I swore that someone was sitting in between us, keeping us safe. I was hysterical – the beautiful car that my dad bought me recently was totaled. Completely totaled. The highway patrol officer reminded me that cars can be replaced, but I cannot.
They took us to a small diner (the only thing around), where we called my boyfriend’s sister. She, too, was hysterical but came to pick us up. When we got back to her house, I called my parents to tell them. It was early in the morning and I think I woke them up. They made the two hour journey to where I was and we all went to the shop where my car was. They took one look at it and hugged me tightly. By looking at the carnage, you would never imagine that someone had survived.
It may sound silly, but til this day, I still do not like to drive on December 23rd. I try not to. I am now petrified to drive in any type of bad weather – hard rain, heavy fog or otherwise. I am also terrified of driving near trucks on freeways. I will not drive side by side with them, and if someone else is driving next to one, I insist that they hurry and pass. I cannot drive in front of them either. I used to not have trouble driving in any weather conditions, but after something as traumatic as what I went through, it is understandable. Big rigs travel these highways day in and day out, and they are familiar with the weather and roads.
As far as injuries go, I had a little cut on my knee and my boyfriend had a small cut on his head. We both went to the doctor the following day, and the doctor thought it would be a good idea to give us tetanus shots just in case. They hurt worse than any physical injury we sustained in the crash. Our arms were sore for days!