Sunday, June 6, 2010

adventures with my 1st car - accident in Iowa

This particular adventure doesn't have a lot of humor or quirkiness, more scared-to-death and on my knees thanking God for safety.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I decided to drive from Wichita, KS to Wheaton, IL, one November to visit friends.  I asked a couple of different people if they wanted to ride along, and fortunately for them, they said no.  I'd gone to college in Wheaton for a year and a quarter, and I'd been there for visits since, so the drive was familiar to me.

It started to snow in Iowa, or maybe just before Iowa, but it was a dry, powdery snow and not accumulating fast, so everyone slowed down to 45 mph or so and kept going.  I'd just passed the exit for Osceola, Iowa, not far north of the state line, when I encountered a car going about 30 mph.  This trip was going to be long enough even without the snow delay, and I was in my early 20s and stupid, so I tried to pass the car.  I probably would have made it, too, had not a huge snow plow in the left lane gradually appeared through the falling snow.  "Uh-oh," I thought - I looked to my right but I hadn't fully passed the car yet and couldn't pull back over.  So I gently tapped the brakes, hoping not to skid or crash head-on into the plow, and prayed.  The car spun backwards, counter-clockwise, fortunately missing the other car, and I began sliding backwards down the ditch on the right side of the road.  Except I kept on sliding...and sliding...long after I thought I should have hit the bottom of the ditch.  "God!" I screamed, and it was a cry not only of fear and a plea for intervention, but an expectation of his help as well.  It was interesting to me later to realize that my immediate reaction in that kind of situation was not only fear but also a strong feeling of, "Come on and save me already!"  Finally the car came to a shuddering crash, tilted at about a 45-degree angle to the right.  (Thank the Lord no one was with me.)  The passenger window shattered, the front passenger-side wheel was pushed inward at about a 45-degree angle, my seatbelt popped open and my glasses fell off.  But once I'd collected myself, I found that I was okay.  Truly not even a scratch.

I got out of the car and climbed up a long hill to the highway, and waved down the first car I saw.  Turns out he was an off-duty sheriff's officer, and he radioed for help - the snowplow driver had seen me and called for help, too.  I was in a bit of shock, but I remember being thankful for the officer's warm car to wait in, for the policeman who offered to go down to my car and collect my bags for me, and for the fact that I was only a mile or so past Osceola, where I could stay and have my car repaired.

In the motel room, I remember falling to my knees in prayer, and talking on the phone with my grandma and my brother, who suggested I read Psalm 91, which was a comfort.

The next day I called my insurance agent and rode out to my car with the tow truck the police had called to get my car out.  It had stopped snowing, and we were able to see clearly what had happened.  I'd landed in a cement culvert that ran under the highway.  The culvert was a squared-off U shape, and my car landed diagonally so that the passenger side hit the top corner of the right upright of the "U".  I'd missed hitting a wood and barbed-wire fence by a few feet.  The tow truck driver just shook his head and said he didn't think he could pull the car out, but he tried.  He drove down the hill and parked next to my car, but the truck just couldn't do it.  So the police called for a crane.  It turns out there had been so many semis that went off the road during the storm that all the cranes were busy until the next day, or maybe it was the next, so I waited.  I don't remember much about those days except walking to the nearby Subway for food a few times.

Finally, the crane arrived, set up on the highway just above my car, and did its work - it was pretty cool.  Not that I'd crash my car into a culvert again so I could watch, but it was pretty cool.  A tow truck took my car to the mechanic my insurance agent had found, and he made it driveable so I could get back to Wichita.  In this case, "drivable" was straightening out the front right wheel, taping plastic over the hole where the passenger window used to be, no muffler, and I'm not sure what else.  But I made it.  And I got another story to tell.  Best of all, I had a chance to see first-hand one of the truths of Psalm 91.

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