It all happened on Interstate 95 in North Carolina.
And it seems so surreal to write and talk about it now.
But if I don’t get my feelings and thoughts down in a tangible fashion now… it’ll feel like a bad nightmare.
Two days earlier, I was in Daytona Beach as part of my Florida vacation. You can actually drive on the white sands of the beach itself. And as I parked my 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS, colloquially nicknamed “The Blackbird,” on the sand, I took a cheeky picture of the car.
I’m driving home. What a wonderful vacation I had. I really needed this to get away from all the stress and strain of my life. And now it’s Friday morning, and I’m chugging along I-95, somewhere in North Carolina.
Hmm… there’s an RV in front of me, and there are some bicycles attached to the back of the RV. Not sure how secure those bikes are, so I’ll just keep a healthy distance between me and him.
And then, all of a sudden…
The bicycles fell off the back of the RV, right into the road. Five car lengths ahead of me.
Think fast, Chuck. Slowly apply the brakes. You don’t want to have anyone hit you from behind, and you don’t want to hit those bicycles… which are coming straight at you.
Can’t swerve to the left. There’s traffic.
Can’t swerve to the right. There’s road signs that could slice through my car like a knife through a steak.
Come on, slow down, slow down…
I hit the bicycles head-on. Nothing I could do, just –
I felt a car slam into the back of mine. I could feel my car start to crumple. Shards of glass flying around my head.
A second hit from behind. Apparently the first car slammed me so hard, it turned me into the left lane of traffic – where I got clobbered again. One of the cars that hit me from behind was a Ford F-150.
I looked around. Driver’s side window smashed. Driver’s side mirror destroyed. Back window decimated. And the trunk – the trunk was now in my back seat.
Oh my God. I got hit from behind and from the front – at the same time.
Stay in the car. Don’t get out. Wait. Help will arrive.
Heart is pounding. Racing. My fingers are trembling, holding onto a glass-strewn steering wheel. Nothing is moving.
I looked around. Am I okay? Quick check of my hands. Five fingers on each.
Paramedics arrive on the scene. They can’t get me out from the driver’s side. I move over to the passenger’s side and exit the car.
And it’s only then… only then… that I see the magnitude of what happened.
Paramedics take me into an ambulance. They check my blood pressure. The readings are so high, it could ring a bell on top of a tower and give a kewpie doll afterward.
All my cameras were in the back seat. They were spared. My luggage and my laptop were in the back seat as well.
Drivers of the other vehicles come over to make sure I’m okay. “There’s nothing you could have done,” they said to me. “You’re blameless in this accident.” “We hope you’re all right.”
The officer on the scene issues tickets to two of the drivers – to the RV driver for not securing his load properly; and to one of the cars behind me for not keeping a safe traveling distance.
But my car…
My car is absolutely destroyed.
This was the car I bought in 2012. I drove it to Atlantic City and to Niagara Falls. I drove it to Prince Edward Island and to Boston and to Syracuse and to Florida.
This was the car I purchased and paid for, completing the loan three years ahead of schedule.
This was the car that was supposed to be my “forever” car.
And I think … the Blackbird gave its own existence to save mine.
Now it’s a matter of phone calls. Arranging a rental. Calling my insurance. Getting the police report.
Things I never thought would cross my mind on what was supposed to be a relaxing once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
And now all I want to do is go home.
Everybody out there. Please listen to me.
Take a moment and hug your family members. Hold them tight.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. I’m only writing this blog post right now because, for some totally inexplicable reason, I was spared in a car crash that should have taken my life.
Today is a new day. And at some point I’ll start looking for a new car.
A car can be replaced.
But a Blackbird …