“I could have been seriously injured or worse. So everyday now, I remind myself to love, forgive and live to the fullest, because I never know when I may not be able to do so again.”
I started as a freshman in high school. I was taking Driver’s Ed to get my driver’s license. We learned how to drive, how to follow traffic rules and about the hazards that can lead to fatal car crashes.
One day, someone came in to speak to our class. He once was a baseball player and a top prospect until a bad decision lead to a crash that left him paralyzed, handicapped and having to learn to do basic tasks all over again. In his case, he was speeding, lost control and swerved into a tree. We learned that in worst cases, such crashes can result in death. I never imagined that I would be involved in one. Going forward, I made a few minor traffic mistakes that lead to tickets, but nothing compared to what I would experience later on.
June 7, 2013.
I graduated about a week before from high school. I left the gym after working out and was driving the usual long route back home. I approached a T-intersection that I drive through along the way.
I was driving straight (from right to left) along the top line of the T with the intersecting street on my left side. There was a car a good length in front of me signaling to turn left into the intersecting street. The car stopped to allow a car coming from the opposite side (left to right along the top line of the T) to pass before making the turn. I slowed down behind the turning car with my foot on the brake, never completely stopped. After the car in front of me made the turn, I took my foot off the break pedal and was moving it over to the gas pedal, never touched it, when out of no where a car behind me smacked into mine. I saw it approaching fast in my rear view mirror, but the view was very brief.
In an instant, my car was in the air. It turned 180 degrees, landed on the shoulder of the road and then flipped sideways about 2 or 3 times, before stopping sideways close to a utility pole on the grass on the side of the street. I sat in shock, strapped to the seat by the seatbelt and just looking out of the cracked windshield, the radio knocked out and on my lap, airbags did not release.
I saw people, who were standing on the side of the road by their house and saw the whole thing, approaching to look through the windshield. By the look on their faces, they may have thought I was seriously injured or worse. I gave them a thumb-up to signal that I was alive and okay. Then I saw a boy run to look too and I immediately recognized him as someone I knew from my church youth group.
Someone climbed to the passenger side of the car to open the door and help me out. I unbuckled and we grabbed hold of each other as he helped me climb out of the car. I walked over to the opposite side of the street in a daze to wait with the boy sitting on the grass as someone called the police. As I waited, I started crying. I borrowed someone’s phone to call my parents to come over.
When they arrived, they were crying too and hugged me. From the looks of the scene they thought I was seriously injured or worse too. But I had no injuries and only some bruises and the mark of the seatbelt across my torso and hips. The seatbelt saved me. I was later taken to the hospital for a screening to see whether I had any head trauma. There was nothing wrong with me. It was a miracle.
The boy felt some pain in his back, so an ambulance took him, but it turned out to be nothing serious. When the police arrived, the people who were on the side of the street gave their account of what they saw and the scene was cleared. My car was totaled and towed away. We were able to save the trunk case that flew off and the street sign that was knocked down during the accident.
It turned out that the boy was distracted looking down at his phone at a text and did not realize that I was stopped. He glanced up at the last second and swerved to try to avoid me, causing him to hit me on the back left corner of my car and causing my car to turn and move the way it did. Who knows what could have happened if my car was hit a different way or if there were more cars around.
What I apply from the situation is more than just “drive safely”, “click it or ticket” or “it can wait”. At the time, I was grateful to walk away alive, accepted it had happened and left it behind. But now looking back at it, I realize the greater significance of the experience and how I can carry certain applications forward in my present life, and you can too.
It reminds me to think about the present, live in the moment and understand that not everything is in our control. This reminder came at a good time, when a month ago I was concerned too much about the past, future and what ifs and the reminder can help going forward to bring me back to ground when I do stray off into those concerns.
Sometimes I wondered what if I had not walked away from the scene. What if at any moment now, a similar situation takes my life without warning.
People die everyday, often without prior warning from accidents like these. It does not make sense to us. Just two or three weeks ago, a man in m mom’s Taekwondo class died of a heart attack in his driveway. He was active and seemed healthy before then and was about a month away from earning a black belt. But what he is most remembered for is his personality and friendliness towards others, not for his accomplishments.
And in that situation, one of my favorite sayings was exemplified:
“The best legacy you can leave behind is not what is engraved in trophies or monuments, but what is woven into the lives and hearts of others.”
I want to live the rest of my life with that mindset. I encourage you to do so too. Take care of your personal needs first and then focus on how you can make a positive impact in other people’s lives. Also, don’t be afraid to fail or take chances. Be happy and enjoy everything, even the little things in life. One of my favorite songs is “I Lived” by One Republic and the lyrics apply so well to this topic.