As a young teenager, I believed that drinking and driving was not such a big deal. I thought there was no real harm because we were not completely drunk when we ventured out for drives, just a little bit. I never took into consideration those who could be harmed by our ridiculous decision to joy ride. I believed this until one day the vehicle I was riding in was struck by a drunk driver.
Friday September 12, 2004, marks the day that would change my view that drunken driving causes no real harm, I was seventeen and on my way home riding the bus from a football game that I was cheering for Talawanda High School. I was half asleep and worn out from cheering, it was about eleven o’clock, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a red Corvette barreling down a hill on the street directly to the left of the road our bus was traveling on, and I remember thinking in my head, “there is no way that car is going to stop,” and it did not. The Corvette hit our bus on the left side where a friend and I sat.
I flew out of my seat and instantly felt the pain in my stomach, like someone stabbing me over and over again. I then felt the bus swerve back and forth, the driver desperately trying to keep the bus from tipping over. One swift swerve to the left and I was back in my seat, my head slammed up against the bus window, and I was out. The blow to my head had knocked me unconscious.
When I awoke, paramedics were all that I could see. They were in the bus, outside, and standing over me. The noises were so loud; the shrill screams of the ambulance sirens were enough to make me wish I was still in my coma-like state. I wanted to move but could not; the pain in my stomach was too strong. As the paramedics began asking me questions, I told them of the pain, and the looks on their faces scared me even more than I already was. They thought I had internal bleeding, and I had to be rushed to the hospital immediately.
I had to be cut out of the bus so that my body would be moved as little as possible. I was placed inside the ambulance and again slipped into unconsciousness. When I woke up again, I was in a hospital bed; I looked to my left and saw my shredded cheerleading uniform and underclothing that had been cut off of me, then to my right and saw a curtain separating me from another patient. Moments later my sobbing dad and grandpa entered with the doctor and began telling me what was wrong with me. I had deep internal bruising from my collar bone to my hips and thighs.
As I lay in bed with my family around me, a police officer approached me and asked some questions, and then a woman barged into my area and began screaming at me, repeating over and over, “It was not his fault!” I did not understand what was happening until the officer apprehended her and later explained that the patient on the other side of the curtain was the man driving the red Corvette. His mother blamed me and everyone else but her son for the accident. This forty year old drunk driver had committed his sixth DUI, no license, no insurance, and a borrowed Corvette. I later told the officer to tell the man I would pray for him.
I look back on this experience and realize how drunk driving can affect so many people. I could have been that man. I could have just as easily hit that school bus when I was driving impaired. I saw how many people it hurt, all of the passengers on the bus and their families, my frightened family, and the drunk driver, and his family. When I look back over that chapter in my life, so much has changed. I never drink and drive, I will not ride with anyone who has been drinking, and I try to stop those who have been drinking, from driving. I believe that it sometimes takes an experience like mine to change one’s outlook on life, and now I believe my situation has helped me and as well as others know drinking and driving is never okay.
I also think this experience has impacted my spiritual life as well. I tried to pray for that man every day after the accident. In my mind prayer is what he needed most. I think that troubled times fall on people that completely crumbles the frame of mind so that they can begin to build themselves back up again. This not-so-pleasant strife at first ended up being a positive encouragement in my life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.