It was a gross day: rainy, 44 degrees, and foggy in spots. But it meant spring was coming, because it wasn't snow. And the kids were sleeping, I had some Seeds Family Worship playing, and the roads were empty. I was surprised by how the morning had gone so easily; the baby woke up and ate when I needed him to, Anna had not gotten upset by waking up early and having to get into the car so quickly, and I hadn't even forgotten the snack bag! The sky was very dark for that time of day because of the rain, but otherwise, it was a pretty good morning.
We were quite a ways down the road by the time the sky lightened enough to be "daytime." Anna was not impressed and decided to go back to sleep. Not a peep from the baby. But despite the brighter skys, it was actually harder to see, because it was raining harder and the traffic had increased, with more splashing and spraying water. My wipers were not on the highest setting, but I was worried they soon would be! Around 7:45 I started seeing road signs for King of Prussia, and I was relaxing a bit because I knew I was getting close to Philly. The sooner I could get of the road, the better!
Traffic was moving well. In fact, I was in the left lane, and being passed by drivers in the right lane! People who have driven with me know that I tend to drive fast, and it's unusual for me to be passed unless I specifically am driving slowly. I glanced down and I was going 62mph; the speed limit was 65mph. How fast must those people be going, and in the rain to boot!
That's when I felt my car start to hydroplane. It's an indescribable feeling when you realize that you have lost control of several thousands of pounds of machinery, and there is nothing you can do to regain control. And your life and the lives of your children are at stake.
I tried to put on the brakes, but of course, the tires weren't on the ground, so it did nothing. The car started to twist, turning towards the left and heading straight for the center concrete median. The steering wheel was useless in my hands, but I held on and tried to steer away from the median anyway. I knew a crash was inevitable, so I did the only thing that made sense- the only thing that could help us. "Jesus, help us, save us, protect us, keep my babies safe!" I prayed. I felt no fear, just a desperation to protect my children from something completely out of my control.
The car turned so much that we hit the median, it was almost head-on. A split second after hitting the median, we were struck by another vehicle on the rear driver's side, so that the car started spinning, and I was suddenly facing the on-coming traffic.
In that moment, I had a few distinct thoughts running through my head. My airbag must have gone off when we hit the median and already deflated, because it was limp and useless in front of me; what good is this going to do if we are still in motion, I wondered. The cars were hurling towards us at 60-70 mph, and swerving to avoid hitting us, parting like the Red Sea for Moses, I thought. I remember thinking that they would avoid us but all hit each other. This is going to be one heck of a pile-up, and it's my fault! Then we kept spinning, a full 360 degrees and then some.
The car finally stopped moving when the rear passenger side and most of the back of the car smashed into the center concrete median. It was quiet for a moment.
It suddenly occurred to me that I was alive. Thank you, Jesus. Praise God! I looked over my shoulder, and saw the baby's car seat undisturbed, the passenger-side rear door apparently unharmed. He started fussing, and I reached to stick his pacifier into his mouth, so thankful that I knew he was breathing. I turned more and saw Anna's wide eyes looking at me. She had no obvious injuries, and her car seat also looked untouched. There was no rain or wind coming into our car, so I knew all the windows were intact.
"What happened, Momma?"
"There was an accident, and the car is all broken, but Jesus and the angels kept us safe and we are all okay!"
She smiled at me. "Yes, it was the angels!"
I unbuckled, worried for a moment that the car was on fire, but decided it was just the smell of the airbag. I couldn't find my phone- it must have gone flying in the crash. Hopefully someone else was calling 911. I got out, quickly went to the door behind me and opened it to check Anna. She was calm, as Anna tends to be in high-stress times, and she smiled at me. I ran to the other side of the car. It was a tight squeeze to get into a position to open the door since that side of the car was wedged against the concrete median. I pulled it open, and saw my baby's face scrunched up and red, crying in protest of the violent awakening from his peaceful nap.
I have never been so happy to hear my baby cry. Ever.
I reached over and picked up my glasses from the seat between the kids, just realizing that they must have flown off during the accident. I wasn't sure if I should remove the kids from their car seats or wait for the paramedics or what. I checked the front passenger seat and still couldn't find my phone. I really hoped someone had called 911.
A gentleman came running towards me. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, and my kids are okay, too."
"Can I do anything for you?"
For anyone who has ever taken a CPR class, you know that one of the first things they teach you is to delegate calling 911 to a bystander. Not just to say "someone call 911" but to actually assign the task to a particular person: YOU, call 911. I was totally having that moment. But instead of being the "rescuer/provider," I was the victim. I found this to be a little funny, but that might have been the stress:)
"Can you call 911 for me? I can't find my phone."
"911. RIGHT! I'll call now!" He scurried away, and I went again to check on Anna.
The kids really were okay. The baby had stopped crying, just fussing a tiny bit around his pacifier. Anna reached up to touch my face. I smiled at her. I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing, but I was so thankful that we were okay.
The gentleman who called 911 came back, again asking what he could do to help. I borrowed his phone, intending to call John. But then I remembered that John was probably still asleep, and his phone was on silent. So I dialed Abigail's number.
She picked up, and I told her I had to talk to Daddy right away. 30 seconds later I was still waiting for him to get on the line, and I hadn't even heard Abigail go wake him up. "Abigail, we were in a car accident and I have to talk to Daddy RIGHT NOW." I think she finally picked up on the urgency in my voice. John was most definitely asleep as I jabbered "we were in an accident. Everyone is okay, but I think the car is totaled. You will have to come get us. Take Abigail to Aa to Zz (day care) and come get us. And call my phone as soon as we hang up, so that I can try to find it."
In typical John fashion, his response was brilliant. "Okay."
I hung up and asked Anna to help listen for my phone. It was loud and traffic on the other side of the median was still whipping past us. I couldn't hear it. The gentleman who was helping me offered to call my phone, and I still didn't find it. Highway patrol showed up.
That's when things start getting fuzzy. I found out that only one other car had been involved (the one who struck us and sent us spinning) but that mom and her 2 kids were okay- their car was still drivable and they were moving it to the shoulder. Thank God. I tried to start my car, and the key would not budge. I couldn't even get the key out of the ignition! So, remembering that John had lost his house key, and the cat-sitter still had our spare, I slipped the rest of my keys off the chain and into my pocket- at least we would be able to get into the house! The state trooper finally showed up and literally yelled at me to move my car to the shoulder. I told him I couldn't. "Have you even tried?" he asked, the irritation clear in his tone.
For the first time since the accident, I felt myself get a little worked up. Had I even tried? No, I just said that because I wanted my car to stay in the middle of I-76 with my children sitting in it! But I knew getting upset wouldn't help. I told him I had tried, but couldn't get it started, and wasn't sure it would move even if I could get the engine going. (Had he not looked at the car?)
|I didn't think this was toooo bad, but apparently it was enough that the stroller in the back was damaged and is now unusable. Amazing that we all made it through unharmed. Truly, an act of God.|
|This picture really brought it home for me- I didn't realize how much the front of the car was smashed in until I saw that there was basically nothing left in front of the wheel. And normally, there is quite a bit of car in front of that wheel!|
|Note the back wheel- broken axle for sure.|
Eventually we moved the kids to the patrol truck, someone gave Anna a children's book from their car to keep her occupied, I grabbed our stuff out of the car (the kind gentleman even grabbed the stroller from the back of the car, pulling it over the back seat since we couldn't get the hatch open- but I forgot to grab my most important item: my car charger for my iPhone!), and from there drove to the service station just up the road. The State Police officer met us there and did all the license, registration, insurance stuff. Then the medics checked us out. I decided to go to the hospital because I was having a LOT of pain, and I also wanted the kids checked out- were were going 60+ when we hit the median! The tow guy gave me his info and the medics loaded us into the truck. Surprisingly, when they radioed in, the hospital decided to classify me as a trauma, despite the fact that I was walking and talking without a problem!
The paramedics were having a fun time with the kids, and other than the fact that every bump sent shooting pain through the middle of my chest, I was doing just fine. The trauma doc checked out the kids and gave them a clean bill of health. I started having some blurred vision and it became clear I had hit my head, so they did a CT scan of my head and chest: no obvious brain injury, but a fractured sternum. John finally arrived, and a few hours later we were on our way with a script for Percocet (nice:). A few black and blue spots, but nothing too bad.
|Arm + Airbag. I have something similar on my forehead.|
|Right hip... from the buckle digging.|
|Left knee. Not too dark, but still swollen.|
|Right chest. Exactly where the baby likes to pound on me while he nurses. Nice.|
I've never been in a car accident before, but it's kind of interesting... the hospital will be sending my bills straight to my insurance company. I might be getting a ticket for "driving too fast for conditions"- despite being passed by other vehicles just before hydroplaning. I might get a bill from the state for the cost of damages to the concrete median, but insurance will cover that, too. I will find out Wednesday if the car is "officially" totaled, but I can't fathom a way it would be fixable.
Anna was a rock during the whole thing. A few great lines from her: Momma, is the baby going back into your tummy now that we are at the hospital?... Daddy, the car is broken into lots of pieces. Momma did it.... The fairies (angels) kept us safe while the car was spinning, and they were giggling in my ear!
The baby was his normal happy/adorable self, smiling at the nurses and doctor. He didn't even get upset when he filled his diaper at the hospital! He is such a good baby.
As I told my mother-in-law last night, the fact that our car was only hit by one other vehicle, and that there were only 2 vehicles involved is such a miracle! I kind of felt like our car was like the Knight Bus in the third Harry Potter movie- squeezing through tiny spaces between cars:) I mean, being able to walk away from a crash that happened at 60+ mph is really a miracle!
I am so thankful; for the peace and clarity of mind that enveloped me during and after the crash, for the car seats that helped keep the kids safe, for the motorists who stopped to help us, the highway patrol and state trooper who moved things along quickly, the medics and hospital staff who took care of me and entertained the kids, my husband who (once awake) acted quickly and made sure I was as comfortable as possible on the ride home, my in-laws who are helping with the kids and taking care of me this weekend while John works, the insurance company who has been quick in responding and even offered to tow the car to my hometown at no extra cost, and for the prayers and support from friends and family via email, phone/text, and Facebook. But mostly to my sweet Savior who not only saved me eternally, but who sent Angels to keep the kids and I safe.
(Speaking of eternal... I was texting my mom that I had a "sternal fracture." My iPhone autocorrected to "eternal fracture." Um, no thanks!)