Four years ago today, January 15, 2011, I was driving to a basketball tournament in Rice Lake, MN early in the morning, as I’ve done dozens of times. I was giving a ride to my friend Michelle, her son Chris, and my son Will. I was driving my 1998 Honda Accord, and the boys were sleeping in the back. We started out about 6:30 in the morning, and it was snowing pretty hard. For some reason, our directions took us on a path which was a bit remote, but we made it through until we reached a major highway, which was in much better condition. As I turned Eastbound on Highway 8, I remember a sense of relief to that point.
Highway 8 is a two lane highway, and Michelle and I were making small talk, probably about our shared relief to no longer be on the back roads. I remember being in mid-sentence when I heard the first of two loud thuds in succession. The second thud was something slamming into my car head-on, driving us into the ditch to the right. At that point, much of it became a blur, but airbags, glass and panic ensued. I quickly looked around the car, both boys returning with eyes wide in shock. I yelled, “is everyone OK?” and they nodded. Like the cliché, I had no idea what had hit us. I instructed everyone to get out of the car. Michelle, who is a registered nurse, quickly noticed that my arm was bleeding. “It’s gotta be broken Omar,” she said. I winced and tried to pry my door open to get out.
I looked out my broken window and a truck was stopped on the road, and the driver was trying to talk to me. Soon, all I can remember is getting out of my car, crossing the road, and seeing emergency vehicle after emergency vehicle racing down the road. All the focus was on whatever had hit me.
Michelle and Chris were separated from me and Will, and in an ambulance someone was taking care of me. My son just sat there, unable to even speak. I finally remember a helicopter landing in the field where the other vehicle was in addition to fire trucks, police cars, and many people.
We traveled by ambulance to Amery, WI. where I learned that the driver of the pick-up truck that had crossed the center lane and hit me was killed. I was beaten up, bloodied, and stitched up, and clearly in shock.
But we walked away. He didn’t.
It’s taken awhile to get my thoughts around the enormity of this accident. Both boys are thriving young high school Juniors. The police said that because they were sleeping, the impact was less, similar to why a drunk driver sometimes inexplicably escapes injury in a crash.
When you walk away from something like this, you can’t help but think you got a second chance. I got a second chance.
So what have I done with it?
Honestly, not enough. I wish that I’ve done more. I wish I had some inspirational change or comeback story to share with you. I’m humbled that I don’t.
But re-living a major events is healthy. It gives you a reminder and perspective about the bigger picture. It makes me want to thank everyone that is a part of my life, who has supported and believed in me. Even the modest number of followers to this blog. You don’t know how important it is to me that you read, and care about, things that I have to say. And I hope in some small way its added value. Today, for me, is a day of reflection, and a day to now look forward. With this humble reminder of what happened on January 15, 2011, it’s time to do something with that second chance.