On Wednesday evening, Valentine's Day, Patrick and I decided to go out. We had been indecisive about exactly what our plans were all week, but in the end decided that. rather than spend all our money on a big fancy date, we would put most of it into savings and go out to eat with what was left.
We had been talking with my brother, who is currently deployed and unable to really do much for his wife as far as romantic surprises go, and we decided that we would also get something for my sister-in-law and niece on our way home.
We had been out a few times before without incident, so when my sister-in-law told us it might snow, we were thinking a light snow like we had seen before.
When we left the house, there was snow on the ground, but that was nothing we hadn’t driven with before, and the sky seemed fairly clear. It looked like a pretty nice night.
The ride into town was smooth, we chatted about how God sometimes wins atheists over during situations where a significant other is dying or hurt.
I asked Patrick what it would take to get him to believe and his answer was “A sign or a miracle that I can see with my own eyes”.
His answer made me a little nervous, as I remembered all the stories I had heard about people dying or almost dying before their partners could believe. I silently hoped to myself that it wouldn’t come to that.
When we pulled into Cracker Barrel, we were talking about Job and how he was tested many times and never gave up and how sometimes God tests us.
We walked into Cracker Barrel holding hands and laughing, and the sky was still clear.
It wasn’t very busy and Patrick (for once) didn’t complain that the radio was on a country station.
We played the peg game until our food came and afterward hung around the gift shop to see if we could find a good gift.
I settled for a neat coffee cup that said “Sisters and Chocolate make life bearable” and we decided to hit Walmart for something to go with it.
We had planned on going to Walmart anyway to put money on my card so that we could pay bills we figured two birds one stone.
We shopped around, grabbed a few necessities, then bought a rattle for my niece along with a small coffee cup sized elephant and some candy for my sister-in-law.
It was dark by the time that we left, but the sky was still just as clear as before.
I texted my sister-in-law, “On our way back,” as we started the truck up.
We were on the way home, about halfway there, exiting off of the interstate when it suddenly started snowing heavily. I wondered if maybe we should pull over and wait it out but it started to ease up, so I didn’t say anything.
Suddenly Patrick shouted “OH S*IT BABY!” I looked up just in time to realize we were spinning and there was a wall of ice and snow coming at me fast.
I leaned away from the door, bracing myself for impact and latching onto Pat’s arm as it shot out to cover me.
We slammed into the ice wall and the whole world began to collapse around me. We were spinning, slamming, crashing. The ceiling came down and suddenly it was dead silent.
It took me a moment to realize what had just happened.
Were we upside down? Was Pat okay?
I saw my cell phone, which I could have sworn was in my hand, face up and glowing on the roof already open and ready for a number to be dialed and I reached out to call 9-1-1.
“Oh my god Baby! Baby Are you okay?! Oh my God!” I could only see Pat’s arm but the tone of his voice scared me a little. I unlatched my seatbelt in a daze and dropped down into the snow and glass where the passenger side window used to be.
“I think so, what about you? Are you hurt?”
“No I think I’m okay. Are you sure?”
“9-1-1 what’s you’re emergency?”
“Um… we’re upside down,” I said.
It took a second to process, “We’re upside down on the side of the road, we crashed.”
“Is anyone hurt?”
“I don’t think so,” I looked around, trying to find a way out of the crushed heap of metal, “But I think we are trapped. We can’t get out.”
“Are you on highway 84?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Help is on the way. Do you want to stay on the line with me?”
“Someone else is calling in. I’m going to put you on hold, okay?”
Suddenly Patrick was breathing heavily, and I began to panic, it felt like the truck was getting smaller, like there was less oxygen, I couldn’t see any way out, I couldn’t see his face, I remembered every single television wreck I’d seen where the vehicle caught fire.
“It’s okay!” He called out, “We’re okay.”
He sounded so sure of himself that I calmed down a little.
“Do you see any way out?” I asked.
“I might be able to kick the window out but I don’t know if we can get out there.”
Suddenly there was a crunching noise outside, a flash of light and a woman’s panicked voice “Are you okay? How many of you are there?! Are you hurt?!”
“We’re okay! There’s two of us! We’re okay but we’re stuck!” I called back.
“You can’t get out?”
“I’ve got the police on the line just hold on okay?!”
More flashing lights. Red and blue this time, coupled with a surge of panic and hope.
A blur of words spoken between the police officer and Patrick, that I couldn’t quite grasp until the words we will have to wait for the fire dept to get you out floated into our crumbled metal prison.
“I think we could get out if we could get to the window and shatter it,” Pat shouted back, “I can’t reach it though, the steering wheel is in the way!”
“Move as far away from it as you can, I’m going to try and break it!”
I saw Pat’s face as he shifted to get away and I wrapped his head in my arms and huddled over him as the officer slammed his baton into the driver’s side window.
It was a few moments before Patrick managed to shuffle out the window, but it felt like ages. I crawled after him, slowly, trying to figure out why moving was so difficult. It felt like I was crawling through Jello, I wondered if Pat felt the same way.
Suddenly I was crawling into the snow, and the first thing I saw was Pat’s favorite hat.
His favorite hat. I picked it up without really thinking about it. I just wanted something familiar, and the hat was a very big part of our relationship.
There were arms around me suddenly, and Pat was looking me over, breathing heavily and asking me if I was okay.
A dull ache suddenly made itself known from my right shoulder.
“I’m okay, my shoulder hurts though, Are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?”
“I’m alright, I’m not hurt, we’re okay.”
My brain felt like sludge, thoughts flickering passed before I could really grasp them. I wanted to cry but I remembered the last wreck I’d been in and called to the officer, “Please don’t call an ambulance. We don’t have any money.”
He assured me that the fire dept. would be there soon and that their EMT would look us over, free of charge.
Then he suggested we move up the hill in case another car wrecked.
He had been in route to another crash a mile up the road but had seen us first and stopped.
He began to ask us questions. We gave him all the answers we could.
Suddenly it occurred to me that I needed to call my sister-in-law and tell her what happened.
I pressed her picture on the screen and waited for her angry reaction as I told her what happened.
I apologized. I wanted to cry.
She wasn’t angry at me, she was trying to get a ride so she could come and get us and no one was answering her. She wanted to know if we were okay. If we were hurt, where we were.
We hung up and I remembered the lady from before, I couldn’t find her. I vaguely remembered her being there when I crawled out, I sort of remembered saying thank you.
I somehow remembered her saying she had heard us crash and came running.
I wanted to talk to her and thank her properly, but she was gone.
It was cold, I also realized. I vaguely remembered taking off my jacket before the crash.
The police officer seemed to realize this and ran to his car, returning with a large purple blanket that someone at some point wrapped around my shoulders.
I moved closer to Patrick as he began to fill out paperwork with the officer. I saw a fire truck pull in.
The EMT came straight for me and asked the officer if I could sit in his car where it was warm and he could check on me.
The officer ran over and opened the back door, warning me not to close it or I would be stuck.
The EMT escorted me over, asking me if I was hurt anywhere, or if I hit my head. He shined a small flashlight in my eyes and gingerly reached for my arm.
“Can you move it?” he asked.
So I did. I moved it up and down and in a circle.
He smiled, “That’s good, you have full range with it. Do you mind if I take a look at it?”
I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, and I realized the only way he would be able to see it properly was by pulling my collar down over my shoulder. He was being very polite about it.
I nodded, giving him the go ahead.
He was very gentle about it, told me that I wasn’t bleeding but that I would have a nasty bruise. He explained that I would probably be very sore the next few days and suggested I huddle up with the blanket inside the patrol car because the temperature was dropping.
I kept Patrick in my line of sight the entire time, watching him fill out paperwork until he was eventually free to huddle in the car with me.
“Do you remember what we were talking about earlier?” He asked.
“I think this was my sign,” he said.
“I think so too,” I said heavily.
The police officer got into the car and we chatted while we waited for the tow truck and my sister-in-law.
We called our parents to let them know we were okay.
We learned that the cop was actually a state trooper and that the state doesn’t salt its roads in the winter.
He drove us up the hill to the gas station, where we found my sister-in-law and her SGT waiting for us.
The firemen had gathered everything they could from the wreckage for us, and everything was surprisingly intact.
By the time we finally got home, we were dazed and tired. Patrick discovered that his head was bleeding, nearly giving me a heart attack in the process.
I realized passively that my jeans were bloody and he nearly had a heart attack of his own.
Neither injury was bad.
Scrapes and bruises. It didn’t seem right to complain.
He ran a bath, we soaked and took a shower, checking each other for injuries.
My fingerprints were bruised into his arm. I hadn’t realized I was holding on so tightly.
We kept apologizing to each other and reassuring one another that we were fine, there was nothing to apologize for. I never once thought it was his fault. He never once thought it was mine.
We were scared, had almost lost one another. were glad to be home and safe.
We held onto each other until we fell asleep. I kept waking up to make sure he was still breathing and he kept pulling me closer to him in his sleep.
It was scary—terrifying—but we were okay.