Two years ago today, my brother, our friend, and I came close to death in a horrible car accident. Somehow, God granted us a miracle.
This is our story.
January 2, 2011
I can hear only three sounds.
The angry acceleration of an engine that growls louder and louder and louder.
Screaming, high-pitched and heart-wrenching.
Muffled shouting. Words. Words I should be able to understand but somehow can’t.
I open my eyes to the dark. I see a key hanging from a glowing orange halo above me. I see shadows; Shadows of hair, of a steering wheel, of windshield wipers, of something large just inches from my body.
I flex my fingers. They shake. They reach out for the object in front of me that shouldn’t be there. They touch it, feel it. Wood. Or cement. Hard. Solid.
My left ear bites fire into my head. Something wet slinks down my neck.
The engine's roar rises in pitch.
My throat aches. I realize the scream is coming from me and I cut it off with a shudder.
Now I can hear the yells from behind. The words batter my head and bounce against the inside of my skull. I stare at the glowing orange above me, at the keychain that swings back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.
Music is still playing. Classical music. I was listening to classical music earlier. Yes, the piano concertos. Before…
A memory punches through my vision. Headlights. A yellow dotted line on black asphalt. Something in the road.
I flinch and shove the thoughts away. I focus on the yelling, on making sense of the words. Who’s yelling?
I turn my head to hear better, and the cold glass crackles under my cheek.
“Turn off the engine!” he’s saying. “Turn it off!”
His words don't quite make sense. I stare at the key and sense a dark shadow in my peripheral vision.
I look up at the hair hanging in the air from the driver’s seat, at her arms drifting across my line of vision.
“Devan?” I croak.
She doesn’t move.
“Devan?” I reach trembling fingers to touch her arm.
“Devan!” A jolt in my stomach, a clench in my throat.
“Turn off the engine!” Carter shouts.
"She's not moving,” I mumble, shaking Devan’s arm. “Devan… Devan, wake up!”
“The engine!” he says again.
And then it makes sense. I stretch forth a lead arm and twist the key in that orange halo ignition. The angry roar chokes and dies.
“Carter?” I squeak.
My brother. In the back seat. He’d been playing on his laptop. Before…
My mind spins. I see the dog, black and white, in the road, feel the jolt of my stomach as the car jerks, see Devan spinning the wheel in my peripheral vision, hear the words, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh” tumbling like blood from my lips.
“Carter!” My eyes fly open again. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” There are crashes behind me. Shifting. Banging.
“Get your phone,” I say as I struggle to reach around the big wooden thing in my lap.
“I can’t find it!” Carter’s voice is panicked. “How are you guys?”
“Devan’s… unconscious…” How I hope that it’s true. I choke down a sob, squeeze my eyes shut and whisper. “Please, God, don't let her die…”
My ear stabs pain through the side of my face.
A drop of dark blood hits my hand. Devan’s blood. I shriek.
"She's dripping on me," I whimper. More drops splatter against my cheek. My stomach turns over. My eyes ache as I stare at her limp form dangling from her seatbelt.
And then her hand flutters.
I nearly choke. “Devan?” I reach for her fingers. She grasps mine feebly, then lets go.
“I found my phone!” Carter cries.
“Devan, it’s okay, it’s okay,” I murmur as her arms flutter around in the air above me. “I touch her hair. Hold her hands. Thank God she’s alive.
“Can you get out of the car?” I ask my brother.
I hear the crunching glass as he scrambles around in the back. “I’m going to climb out the window.”
Devan reaches for her seatbelt, and I realize I’m still strapped firmly in my own. I’d been meaning to loosen it. Before…
And then I feel the lurch of the car all over again as it dives off the road and into the brush. I see the trees and bushes illuminated by the white glow of the headlights. I’m still saying, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” A fence reaches its claws out of the darkness, dyed pale as bones. My stream of words turns into a scream. And then the world starts to tip…
I swallow down hard and try to focus. I have to focus. Devan needs me.
“Devan, sweetie, are you okay?”
She makes a gurgling sound, unlatches her seatbelt, and slides down on top of me where I lie in the broken and mangled remnants of a passenger’s door.
“Devan, you’re crushing me.” I push her hair back, see the footprints of blood on her cheek.
Her eyes are half open, her mouth droops.
“Can you hear me?” I struggle to ignore the way my voice quivers and the way my eyes sting with tears. My ear pulses madly.
She makes another gurgling sound and leans against the roof of the car.
Carter’s voice is loud outside. “I don’t know where we are,” he’s saying. “We rolled…”
My teeth are chattering. It’s getting cold. And my ear…
I want to reach up and touch it, see why it hurts so much. But what if there’s nothing there? My stomach writhes in my chest and I choke down more tears.
Devan’s face looks white in the moonlight that glares in at us through the shattered windows.
I need to keep calm. Her breaths come out ragged. Her eyes are closed. Her knees dig into my ribs. I cannot breathe.
“Devan,” I cough out. “Devan, you’re crushing me. Devan!”
But she doesn’t move. Just breathes. In and out, in and out.
Glass digs into my arm. I squirm under her weight, gulping at the air.
Carter’s voice gets louder. “Jessica?”
“What?” I croak.
“Are you okay? There’s a pole sticking right into your seat...”
“It barely missed me.” I run my fingers over the pole. Thick as a tree trunk.
He breathes a deep sigh. Says, "Thank you," to God. Then, "911 doesn’t know where we are. I’ll be right back, I’m going to find a sign or something. Is Devan okay?”
Devan’s head moves. “Yeah,” she mumbles.
“She’s awake,” I tell him.
“Okay, I’ll be back in a minute.”
His feet crunch away on the ground until I can’t hear him anymore.
And I am alone.
The darkness presses in on me in this confined space. My ears ring. My head beats the pulse of my heart. Tears stream silently down my cheeks.
“Why am I bleeding?” Devan stares at the blood on her hands. “Why is there blood on my face?” Her voice rises in pitch. “Where am I? Why am I here? What happened?”
I squeeze my eyes shut, beg my ear to stop beating, struggle to keep the tears down. Then I reach out for her arm and pat it. “We just tipped over, sweetheart. You got a little scratch on your cheek. You’re going to be just fine.”
Her eyes widen, and she leans over my face. “Who is this?!” I hear a note of panic in her question. She slaps my face smartly over and over with her hands. “Who is this?! Who is this?!”
“Jessica, it’s Jessica,” I cry, shielding my eyes from her fingers.
Please, God, help me.
“Who is this?!” Her hands assault my face, my hair, my neck.
Keep me calm!
“I’m Jessica! We go to school together!”
“Who is this?!”
I can’t do it.
“Do you know Carter?” I say. Panic spasms through my body as I gasp for air and fight to keep from losing my grip.
“Carter,” she repeats. She stops hitting me. Her hands rest dully against my cheeks.
“Yes, Carter. He went to church with you in Texas. You remember Carter?”
She nods. “I know Carter.”
“I’m his sister.”
She looks blankly at me. I let out my air in a stream of relief.
“His sister,” she repeats.
I nod. “Devan,” I say, hoping she’ll be more responsive this time. “You’re crushing me. Do you think you can crawl into the back seat where Carter was?”
She blinks over at the back seat, and then nods. Her elbows and knees gnaw into my ribs and face as she makes her way to the back. I cough for air when she finally sits on her haunches in the glass of a broken window and peers back at me.
“It’s cold,” she tells me.
“I know.” My own body is convulsing in violent shivers. I reach down around the pole. My blanket is still there. I yank at it. “Here, let me get you my blanket.”
Carter is back. Sirens are blaring. Blue and red lights illuminate the twisted metal that serves as my prison.
“Put this around you,” I tell Devan, shoving my blanket into the back seat with her.
I stare at my blanket on her lap. I'd had it wrapped around my legs to keep me warm. Before…
And then there’s the screaming. And hot adrenaline that shoots painfully through my legs until my toes are throbbing. And the world tips as I watch it through the windshield. And then a sound like a gunshot as the car smashes onto its side. I shut my eyes, feel gravity spinning, hear the crashing, the cracking, the shattering. I chance to open my eyes again. I see a telephone pole. A building. The fence is closer. We are still rolling. And the screaming suffocates my ears…
I close my eyes. Sobs choke up through my body, tears burn down my flesh. I press my cheek into the glass and cry.
An officer peers in at me through the driver’s window overhead. “Are you pinned? Are you okay?” he asks.
“I’m okay,” I whisper.
But I’m not.
There’s another man in the back seat with Devan now. He’s lifting her out.
“Did this pole get you? Are you injured?” The man interrogates me.
I shake my head. It throbs.
“Can you move?”
I sob yes. And then I show him. I smash into the back seat and crawl into the other man’s arms. They lift my shuddering body out of the wreck and set me on the ground.
I walk barefoot to the police car. I look back.
The vehicle is on its side. The fence pole speared through the roof right into the passenger seat.
Where I was.
How did it not hit me?
I am crying.
I am praying.
People talk to me, and I try to understand them. But I can't tear my eyes away from that car.
They ask me what happened.
We almost died.
They ask me if I hurt.
Yes. Everywhere. My ear. Is it still there.
They ask me who was driving.
Was it just you two in the car?
No, my brother was there too. Is Carter okay.
Yes, Carter. Is Carter hurt. Is he bleeding. Is he broken.
I want to see.
He’s in the back seat. Just stay here. Do you need to go to the hospital?
I don’t know.
Do you need a doctor?
I don’t know.
They ask more questions, but I can’t make sense of their words anymore.
The vision of the car is branded like fire against the back of my eyes. It is smashed. And the pole...
I should be dead.
I can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t speak. Sobs tear their way from my throat. The red and blue lights of the ambulance blur in my warped vision.
“Aw sweetie, you’re okay,” a woman with a nice voice says. She’s wearing a flower nightie. She hugs me. I cry into her shoulder. I’m afraid I will get blood on her nightie.
There are people everywhere. They say things to me. Ask me if my parents are coming. Ask me if I’m okay. Ask me if I was wearing my seat belt.
I say yes over and over and over.
My mind keeps hurling one question around in my head so loud I can’t hear anymore.
How am I not dead?
I thank God every day for our miracles.