One Year Later, One Year Stronger

This is an important day for me (which is why this could not wait until Tuesday). One year ago today, I was in a car accident. This is my story:

I was driving home after being with some friends from church, helping them work on a project. I was driving north on US 31 (in Indianapolis) when I noticed my fuel was running low so I decided to stop for gas.I turned into the Speedway on 31 and Edgewood. I filled up my gas tank to about 3/4 of the way (I had a 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander and there was a defect in them. They had a hole near the top of the gas tank, so if it got filled to a certain point, gas would leak out and make the whole car smell like gas). I pulled back out onto Edgewood and turned on my signal to turn left onto 31 to continue going home. There was one car in front of me, and nobody else on the other side of the intersection at Edgewood. The light turned green, and the car in front of me turned left. I was following suit and was about halfway through my turn when I heard a sound I’ll never forget. I can’t describe it (those of you who have been in a car accident know what I’m talking about). I saw my windshield crack, and the next thing I knew I was pulling my face out of the airbag. I gathered my breath and my thoughts and then reached for my phone immediately.

“911. What’s your emergency?’

“Um. I was just in a car accident.”

“What’s your location?”

“31 and Edgewood.”

“Okay. Do you need EMS, Fire Department, or Police?”

I looked over at the other driver. I saw that she was not bleeding and did not appear too badly injured, so I said “Just police is fine.”

So I am dispatched to the police department and I repeat the entire conversation again. After I get off the phone with the police dispatcher, I make the hard call.

“Mom, I was just in an accident.”

“Are you okay?!?!”

“I think so. Just a little banged up.”

“Where are you?”

“31 and Edgewood.”

“Okay, honey. I am on my way.”

At this point, I am still sitting in my car in the middle of the intersection trying to make sense of what just happened. There was a guy at Starbucks just down the road who had seen the whole thing and happened to be a crossing guard. He put on his vest and was guiding traffic to flow smoothly. He came over to me and tapped on my window. I opened my door, and he said “You need to get out. I smell something burning.”

I stepped out of my car and I could smell it too. He walked with me to a corner so I would not get hit. As I walked in front of my car, a sob caught in my throat. The front of both cars were pretty well smashed in. There was glass everywhere along with a fluid, which to this day I still believe to be my gasoline. Anyway, I walked over to the corner the guy was guiding me to and stood next to the other girl involved. She was shivering and extremely emotional (I expected myself to be the same way honestly, and I was surprised that I wasn’t). I noticed she was wearing a cheerleading uniform, and I felt horrible for her to be standing out in the cold. I did my best to calm her down by talking about cheerleading.

My dad got there soon after. He made sure I was okay and then started taking the stuff out of my car. After that, he started exchanging insurance and other information with the other girl’s parents. A police officer arrived, and she had us girls get in the squad car so we could stay warm (February is cold and despite the adrenaline running through me, the cold was starting to catch up to me).I had at least two other people mention that they called the police as well (the crossing guard being one of them). So more police show up, and an ambulance. One of the EMT’s walks over to us (still in the squad car). We rolled down the window so we could talk to him and he asked if we were alright. We assured him we were and once he realized neither of us were bleeding or severely injured, he said “Okay. Well it looks like you both are okay, so we are going to leave.” So the EMS departs. I don’t remember if the Fire Department came, but if so, they left by this time too.

So the police gets the statements from both of us girls, and my brain is trying to process it all. Then, finally, we head home. I was shook up and my mom told me I was not required to go to school the next day; however, I knew I still needed to go (I don’t like missing days and there were people that needed to know I was okay). So the next day at school, it all finally caught up with me and I had an emotional breakdown.

The report officially listed the accident as my fault, but I knew that was only because I was turning left and did not have an arrow. I suffered a few bruises and a little bit of airbag and seatbelt burn, but the other girl and I both survived.

I still clench my hands when I go through that intersection. However, that and the memory are the only scars that still remain. I am so grateful for the kind people like the crossing guard and the first cop that arrived (she was technically off-duty but responded anyway). They went out of their way to help two teenage girls cope with a wreck. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine got in an accident, and I was ready to run out the door and go help her out. I know that if that had happened last year, I would have been concerned, but I would not have known what to do. I am not grateful that I got in an accident, but I am grateful that I am able to learn and grow from that experience. It doesn’t hurt like it used to. After the accident, I would think about what had happened and just break down. And while that is something I will never fully heal from, I know that I would not be where I am today without it. The experiences that shape you may not be what you expect, but every experience is an opportunity to learn from and grow. And that is how terrible things like a car accident make me stronger than I ever was before.

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