The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Sunday, June 20, 2010]


This morning began like every other Sunday morning. I got up around 5:30 and prepared my Primary lesson, got ready for church, etc. We were planning to leave early, at 8:00 instead of 8:30, so that we could get there early and decide where to sit--basically so that I could see where I needed to sit in order to see Laynie at the lectern. Laynie was speaking in church today. Second speaker... perfect position in the lineup.

We left around 8:05. I knew that we would get there later than we had planned, but I didn't feel like speeding. I wanted to keep my stress level down this morning, so I drove less, shall we say, "competitive" than usual. We were about halfway to church, driving on Route 30. It's a long, country road, with just one lane going each way, but the speed limit is 50 mph. As we came over the crest of a hill, I saw a gold SUV coming from the other direction drift into my lane. He was coming directly at us! It felt like it was happening slowly and quickly at the same time. I didn't even honk my horn... I don't remember slowing down, but I might have. I guess I thought he would get back in his lane. But he continued to drift over onto the shoulder of the road (on our side of the road), and I thought he would go right off into the field lining the road. I was wrong! Without slowing down at all, he crashed head-on into the utility pole at the side of the road, going at least 50 mph.

Somehow his car turned so that the passenger side was angled toward us. Laynie said the force of the crash lifted the car off the ground, and it settled back down facing a different direction. I don't remember that. I remember quickly looking around, knowing that I would need to hit my brakes to avoid hitting the wreck (and because I wanted to stop and see if the people were okay and call 911). I pulled over on the shoulder. I called 911, told them what happened, and answered their questions. While I was on the phone, I checked the car and saw that there was only one person: a 40-ish Mexican guy. Also while I was on the phone, two other cars pulled over, who happened to be bossy guys. One started directing traffic (hooray for bossiness), while the other started talking to the Mexican guy. He was pretty out of it, but he kept trying to get out and saying stuff that I couldn't understand. The whole front of his car was pushed in, and he was pinned to the seat. It looked like the lower half of his body had been severed. We couldn't get the passenger door open either, so the other guy who had stopped just opened the door behind the driver (his chair was pushed halfway into the backseat anyway) to talk to him and keep him calm.

As I got off the phone, I noticed a buzzing noise that was increasing in loudness. At first I thought it was coming from the car, but then I realized it was coming from the power lines overhead. They had been damaged by the impact with the pole. It looked like broken wood had partially severed one line, and I was afraid it might snap. I was ready to call 911 and tell them that when the first police car pulled up. He asked us to hang out for a while, that they would want statements from us. Several more police cars arrived, as well as fire trucks and an ambulance.

We began to write out our statements when Laynie pointed out that we really ought to call the church. Of course, I did not have the number. The one that came up on google had been disconnected. Then I called Westminster, and they gave me a number that had been disconnected. Maybe it was the same number... I don't know. I was a little frazzled. Finally I went to the church website and looked up the number (iPhones are really quite handy), but it was busy. By this time, it was about 8:50. The crash had happened at 8:23.. that's when the police officer said he heard from the 911 people. I kept trying to call the church, but the number remained busy. At 9:15, I finally gave up.

Meanwhile, as we were writing our statements, another police officer came up to ask if we were in a hurry to get somewhere. No, Laynie's only speaking in church! He said that this had turned out to be a "special situation," and the investigators would be coming out to get our statements. Turns out the guy was an illegal, and it seems he stole the car or something. They didn't tell us that, but I overheard them talking about his identification and that they couldn't figure out which car the tags belonged to, that the vehicle was not in his name... Anyway, we had to stick around. It's not like we could go anywhere, with all the emergency vehicles blocking us.

A med-evac helicopter came for the guy. He was too critical to be sent by ambulance, because he needed to go to a major trauma center. Like I said we were on a country road, out in the middle of nowhere. That turned out to be convenient for the helicopter, which landed in a field.

We kept working on our statements, and the emergency response team kept working on getting the guy out. Yes, he had been trapped in the car. I wonder if they might have left him in there until the trauma people on the helicopter arrived, because of the way he was pinned? At any rate, the helicopter was there for a good 10 minutes before they finally loaded the guy on.

They had to remove a good portion of the car to get him out. You can see about a quarter of the car has been removed--the windshield, the hood, the dash, and part of the roof.

One exchange with a police officer has stuck with me. He read my statement and asked if the car was in our lane for any length of time or if it had quickly veered over into the pole. I told him that it was in our lane for a while. He looked angry. He asked, "He was driving right at you, in your lane?" Yeah. He just shook his head. That's when it hit me that we could have died. Up until then, I was only thinking about the man in the SUV, but if I had been going a little faster, or if he had drifted a few seconds later, or if things had just been a little different, we could have been in a head-on collision, with both cars going 50 mph.

I felt sick to my stomach. I just wanted to go home. After a couple of the fire trucks left and we were able to get out, which was around 9:25, we started to head home. Laynie and I were both shaking and feeling sick. I guess it's normal to have it come over you after the excitement settles down.

About 5 minutes down the road, we both decided that we wanted to go to church. And I felt strongly that Laynie should go ahead and give her talk, if we got there in time. She thought she was shaking too hard to sign. But she decided to go ahead and do it.

The third speaker had gone in Laynie's place, and we caught the last 5 minutes of his talk. As I sat there, I started to cry, which was exactly why I had wanted to go home in the first place. I knew it would hit me. Just thinking about that man stuck in the car, dying... and how close we came to being seriously hurt or dead ourselves. I prayed for peace, but I didn't feel it. How on earth would I interpret?? I couldn't see through my tears, besides the fact that my voice would betray me. I took out my scriptures and opened up my Book of Mormon. As I started to read, I immediately felt the peace I was seeking. Laynie got up and gave a great talk, and I interpreted it just fine.

Then I taught my Primary class. I was a little spacey at first, but then I was able to focus and it went just fine. One of my problem children was really good today, and another one was halfway decent. Wish I could say the same for my other problem child, but two out of three is not bad. I was really glad that we went ahead and went to church. Now we've been home for about two hours, and every now and then the man's face pops into my head, and I can hear the buzzing and smell the acrid odor. It's scary.

I'm really grateful to Heavenly Father for watching over us.


Nance | June 25, 2010 at 12:29 AM

Oh My Heavens!! You guys are incredible!! Check you out interpreting while coming out of shock! You may just be hero! It's funny how sometimes we have these crazy incidents that kind of act like a reset button for us. I hope that you both are able to feel that peace that only the Savior can give- I am so glad that you both are okay!!

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