I lifted my head; the silence was deafening, interrupted only by the sound of Mary moaning from somewhere behind me. Everything was dark and cold, and all I could smell was gasoline. I pulled myself out through the windshield of the car and went to the driver’s side. Rick was lying still and I could see a blanket on his head. I pulled the blanket off, but he didn’t move. I started to cry; I was frightened?was having a hard time standing. I screamed for my sister, then blacked out.
The next sounds I heard were sirens growing louder and louder. There was a lot of commotion and I heard one of the attendants say “It’s too late for this one.” I felt my body tighten, oh no, not Mary! Someone lifted me onto a stretcher and I asked about my sister.
“Was she in the back seat?”
“we’re getting her out now.” I felt relieved. As the ambulance was driving to Leamington General Hospital, I asked the attendant sitting with me how everyone else was, and That’s when he told me that the driver didn’t make it, but that the other fellow in the back was okay. I could feel my breath catch in my throat and the tears stream out of my eyes. The tightness in my chest was so painful that I tried to grab myself, but I wasn’t able to move my arms.
Jan was lying on the stretcher beside me in the emergency department. The blood was soaking through the wrapping on her arm. I knew she could hear what I was hearing – the disturbing moaning from my sister. Tears were running out of her eyes, “did they tell you about Rick?” I nodded. It was all surreal. Was this a dream? It couldn’t be real. My mind searched to make some sense of what was happening. I had gotten on the bus that morning to go to school, just like any other morning; how did I end up here?
I couldn’t believe Rick was dead, this was our first date!
Jan was wheeled away to another room, and then I saw Gary being pushed by in a wheelchair. My leg began to feel strange, like it was being squeezed and my head ached. Dried blood was on my hands. I saw a gash on my thumb, but I wasn’t sure where all the blood was coming from. That’s all I remember until the next day.
A nurse gently woke me up. I didn’t say anything; I was waiting for her to tell me what had really happened. She reaffirmed the words I had heard the night before. Rick was dead; my sister was critically injured and in a coma. My head began to hurt, I felt sick to my stomach and dizzy, so the nurse gave me something for the pain and I went to another surreal place until mom and my older sister arrived. They took me to see Mary. She was still moaning, but not as loudly. Her head was bandaged and when she moved I could see the dried blood that had come through onto the pillow. Her eyes were open a bit and looked almost black. The doctor said she was in a coma. Again I could hardly breathe as the tears welled in my eyes. Later that day someone brought in a copy of The Windsor Star. On the front page was the caption “What’s Left of Death Car” and below was a picture of Rick’s mangled car. As I lay in the hospital bed, my mind struggled to remember the events before the accident. I remembered Rick drinking beer and throwing the empty bottles out the window. We were all laughing, as he was swerving the car through the winding roads of Point Pelee National Park. We were young and invincible, or so we thought. It was a time when drinking and driving were not talked about. Someone challenged Rick to go faster and That’s the last thing I remember, until waking up in the car.
The next morning when the doctor came in on his rounds he said something to me that would affect the rest of my life. “Well Barbara, God must have had his arms around you protecting you, since the accident happened all around you.” At the time they were just words, but as my life went on, I began to believe that maybe there was a reason why I was put on this earth and living this life.
Myself, Jan, and Gary, were released from the hospital a week later but the emotional and physical recovery has been a long process. My sister suffered many broken bones and remained in a coma for weeks. She still continues to suffer the effects of a traumatic brain injury. It’s sad how one single event can have such a devastating and lasting impact on so many lives.
Barbara Godin is a graduate of AU and writes the “Dear Barb” column. She lives in London, Ontario with her husband, two dogs, and one cat.