Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Reason to be Thankful.

The last fourteen hours had been spent traversing the mid-Atlantic and Midwestern interstates en route to a holiday weekend with my family in the Chicago suburbs. We passed the time discussing academic programs, professional relationships, fast-food consumers, and an assortment of memorable/forgettable holidays with our minds dreaming of a tranquil expedition far away from any distractions or troubles we’ve experienced in “The City that Needs Work.” Despite an afternoon start to our travels, we hoped to avoid delays in relation to weather or traffic and arrive late on the eve of this holiday. However, as the final hours of night were upon us, and we still remained hours from our destination, the likelihood of this presumptuous pace taking us home seemed impossible. A further compounding factor to this delayed realization was the transformation of the misting rain and forming puddles on the asphalt into heavier sleet and black ice on the arterial. Conditions in weather and personal fatigue had now cemented the realization, and we exited on the next ramp to get some due rest at a lodge just inside the Michigan border. We were approximately three hours from our holiday destination, and would wait until morning for more favorable surroundings to finish our lengthy trek.

Sunrise arrived a short time later and there was enough anticipation and anxious emotion within myself to compensate any lethargic feeling I may have had from a deprived rest. Checking the television set, we noted a weather system moving eastward, and directly in our future path, which left snowfall in the areas already crossed over. This is the sort of news no traveler wants to hear, but I figured that the risen daylight would warm temperatures enough to break the clouds from the prior evening, or at worst, leave us with some morning showers to dredge through. So we loaded the car back up and departed from the lodge with clear skies and roadways, around. The interstate towards South Bend was bare and fairly free of traffic, so we now anticipated making good time and being at the parent’s home, Thanksgiving morning, by the noon hour. Shortly after our morning drive began, we noticed the landscape had altered from endless stretches of green fields and plowed agricultural grounds to white-covered flats with scattered patches of foliage sporting a coat of newly fallen snow. Then within a few minutes, we started to find the cause of our changed environment dropping from the sky at an increasing pace. The interstate was now littered with freshly deposited snow, except for the worn paths of the leading automobiles that had left parallel streaks of dark gray for trailing drivers to wisely follow. It was in this immediate moment that I am warned to slow down, as the weather was poor and the driver, myself, was not compensating for such. I was pressing along with traffic, but shouldn’t be, since traffic was not a flock of Chevrolet Malibus, but instead a pride of eighteen-wheelers with enough weight, protection, and experience to ready them for any slight created by the elements. But before I came to this necessary realization, I was passed on the right by one such vehicle, which caused enough distraction to lead our car’s wheels off the beaten path and into the slippery unpacked snow outside the parallels. The car began to slide a bit, and my cell phone vibrated in my left pocket, and before I had time to understand what was occurring, I was now trying to re-correct the slide of the car. I was unable to effectively steer back into the slide, as taught, and the car had now crossed over the centerline and into the right lane. There was no traction between the tires and the asphalt, and I was completely helpless at this point, with the car traveling over sixty miles per hour towards the shoulder. I had long since released the gas pedal and was reluctant to test the anti-lock brake system, for I was not headed in any straight line. The rear passenger tire then touched the eased slope of the grass beyond the shoulder, and the car instantly spun into the white expanses of a field with light foliage in the forefront of a thicker wooded area. We were moving forward, in reverse, beyond the expressway’s path and down a slope. My head was now turned around and facing the rearview window, attentive to the light brush that the bumper was mashing through. There was still some distance until the denser woods would arrive, when the car final comes to a complete stop some seventy feet or so from the road. We were both alright, the car was undoubtedly damaged and still running when I switched the ignition off, but most importantly we were alright.

This is an accurate, but incomplete depiction of the unfortunate events that occurred early this past Thanksgiving morning. It is difficult to describe the accident in detail, which is far different than stating that it is difficult to remember every detail. I can vividly recall the terror I felt with the recognition of loss in control of the car’s direction, the image of looking into Olivia’s beautiful eyes and seeing a desperate plea to avoid disaster, the flash moment when you believe it may all be over, and it is all too hard to effectively convey. Later that day, we would remain startled, but with our health and in the company of those whose care we are thankful for. And today, I am thankful to be typing this entry in my Baltimore apartment, with the love of my life quietly seated steps away from me diligently studying for an upcoming examination.

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