The Girl Who Lived

I evaluate my life several times during the year: my birthday, October General Conference, and April General Conference. And ever since 2001, even though it is so close to October conference, I evaluate my life on September 15. Every year since September 11, 2001, I associate all the media attention on that day with an anniversary of my own, one that came just four days later: the day I should have died.

I have told the stories that follow several times in the past six years, but I’ve never written them down anywhere. I was too weak right after it happened to write in my journal, and by the time I felt better, I was catching up on so much that it never occured to me that September 15, 2001 was something that needed to be documented. So I’ll document it here.

Here is what I remember about that day: roommate Kristin was on a camping trip, I think, and roommate Becky was having girls’ day out with her mom. I would spend Saturday mornings at the high school, prepping the week’s lessons, and that’s where I was headed. I was on 2100 East in Salt Lake City, getting ready to turn left on I-80. I saw a truck about 1/2 mile away, the light turned yellow, and that’s where my mind stops.

The next several hours are pieced together. I remember someone at my side, while I was still in the car, telling me help was on the way. I remember being in the ambulance, telling the EMTs that I hadn’t yet done my lesson plans, so I couldn’t miss school on Monday. I also told them that I had knocked one of my crowns loose. They gave me a washcloth and told me to spit out the crown. I heard one of them say, “Oh my gosh, her mouth is full of glass.”

I remember nothing else until I started to emerge from my unconscious state. I did not want to open my eyes, but they wanted to know who they could call. I had no idea where my roommates were, so I had them call Becca, a friend from my mission. The doctor asked me if I knew what had happened, and I said, “Congress approved a $15 billion bill package to go fight terrorists.” (I had been listening to NPR at the time of impact.) He laughed, and said that was good enough. I think he wanted me to say I had been in a car accident, but I couldn’t exactly say that because I didn’t know it had happened. I also remember someone asking if I was LDS, and if I wanted a blessing. Very cool that medical staff at the University of Utah ER would be willing and able to give blessings.

I looked at the pictures of my car for the first time last year. I figured five years was enough time to process this:

The damage report for my body is nothing short of miraculous: 1 broken nose, scrapes on my arms from where glass had been embedded, two black eyes, a deep scratch on my face, and 7 staples in my head from where yet more glass had been embedded. Oh, and I had a concussion as well.

The next several days are still a bit of a blur, but I remember these details: Becca and her husband Matt came to the hospital, managed to look beyond my bloodied face and took me home. I remember calling Kristin on her cell phone and leaving her a message about what had happened, and I remember her worried face when she walked in the door and saw me on the couch. I remember Kristin and Becky (and I think Becky’s mom, too) taking turns waking me up every single hour that first night, as my concussion was serious enough to warrant that action. I know Kristin and Becky took care of me in ways I don’t remember right now. And a couple days later, despite my objections, my parents drove 14 hours (flights were still grounded) to test drive cars, shuttle me around and make sure I really was on the mend.

My recovery was slow, despite my lack of injuries. For years I had used the expression “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.” I know now exactly how that feels.

Would I choose to be in that kind of accident? Of course not. But I quickly learned to be grateful for that accident, because of what I gained. Brand new car aside, I was the recipient of so much love and goodwill, that I started to realize how others felt about me (a good thing, by the way). I learned how to give myself a break, because I was saddled with physical limitations that required me to slow down my usual frenetic pace. And this might be obvious, but I finally understood that there had to be a rock-solid reason I was on this earth. Otherwise, the day I should have died would have been the day I did die. And I’ve done a lot of meaningful and fun and valuable things in the past six years.

Glad I’m still here.

11 Comments

  1. Ditto. Very much so.xoxoxPS: Had I known I would totally not have driven with you on this the anniversary. That is way too freaky 😉 Seriously I am impressed by your lack of neuroses driving post near death experience (apart from not wanting to turn left across 2 lanes, which of course I actually appreciate tremendously 😀PPS: Where are you on your homework? I had to stop because you know, it is technically Sunday even though I have not gone to bed yet.:P

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  2. Deanne and Jennie–I’m your special friend. Haha.Kirsty–I’m just glad you read this AFTER we drove up to Perrysburg! Homework last night did not happen…so I’m making up for it today. 😦

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  3. I remember that weekend. I remember driving home from the cabin after getting the news and thinking the lowered flags were fitting on a personal level for once. glad you’re still here and glad you documented. for posterity’s sake or something.

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  4. OK… let me try this again. Maybe I’ll make sense this time. :o) I totally remember that day. I’m sitting here at work crying, after looking at your car again. Brings too memories back and A LOT of emotions. I was driving home from Ed’s cabin when I got the message. I started hyperventilating and John had to take the wheel. I remeber taking care of you… I never imagined that cleaning up someone elses vomit would be so easy. :o) heh! I sure love you lady!! I’m I’m glad you’re still here… you just live too far away!

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  5. Sarah–thanks!Kristin–oh my, I forgot about the vomit…maybe I was preparing you for motherhood. According to my sisters, there is a lot of vomit cleanup as a mom. I do live too far away! 😦

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  6. Hey there! Kristin just told me you posted this story. I totally remember it. How scary it was and how grateful we were that you were ok. I do remember waking you up and having to make sure that you were all the way awake. You would have to look at us and I think say something that was coherent. My mom wasn’t supposed to be there that day but came at the last minute. I’m sure glad you are still here!

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  7. Becky–that is one of the most vivid memories I have, is how hard it was to open my eyes. It was awful. I’m glad your mom was there, too! We were all really blessed that day.

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  8. Crraaaazzzy! That’s so scary how life can completely change in the blink of an eye. Life is precious, no? I’m glad you’re not dead. I’m glad I know you. I’m sure you found out how to whole thing went down, right? What happened to the other driver? This story is so interesting to me!

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