I left pretty early that morning, 5:30 am. I had thoroughly enjoyed my visit with my sister and her husband, but it was time to head home. I had to be at work by the early afternoon, and the drive would take me just under six hours. The air was chilly that January morning, and there was no denying that my jeans and sweatshirt would barely cut it as I quickly walked the short distance from my sister’s house to my 1990 Toyota pickup.
I was on the winter break of my sophomore year of college, working on my nursing prerequisites. I was still living at home and still working part time. I was 19 then, with very little to my name.
Climbing into my small truck cab, I turned the key and the trusty old Toyota engine with 240,000 miles faithfully roared to life. I started heading South on highway 101. As I headed further away from the ocean, I got a little chilled and cranked up the heater. I didn’t realize that the temperature had dropped to the 20’s outside. The roads were curvy the whole way, with redwood trees lining both sides of the highway. All of the sudden, as I entered into a shady area, my truck lost control and I swerved out of my lane left to the other side of the road. There was a cliff not far from the edge, about 8 feet from where my truck was. I panicked, thinking my steering wheel had broken, and tried frantically to return to the correct side of the road. But I seemed to have lost control of everything in the truck, including my brakes. Before I could think another second as to what was happening, my truck immediately veered right, back across my lane and straight into a dirt embankment, where I crashed while traveling at 65 mph (the speed limit). I had hit black ice.
As my truck hurtled across the road and came to a halting stop, I gasped as I felt my entire body get catapulted into my steering wheel. My life literally flashed before my eyes: a multitude of childhood and recent memories soared through my mind, all at once. It was surreal. Right before the impact, I had one thought: This is it. I’m going to die.
After slamming into the dirt bank, my truck jolted back and my upper body flung back away from my steering wheel and into the back of my seat. I gasped, as it felt like all of the air had been forced out of my lungs from the impact. I blinked: I wasn’t dead after all. But I was in shock. Sudden tears streamed down my face. I looked around the truck. The contents of my purse had been dumped onto the floor. My airbag hadn’t gone off. Was I okay? I felt pain in every place where my seat belt had been, but I seemed to be more or less alright. My truck wasn’t running, so I turned the key off and then on again. The trusty Toyota started up! I shifted into reverse, hoping to get the back end of my truck out of the highway as quickly as possible. But my heart sank when I realized that I was unable to move the truck at all.
Worried about oncoming traffic potentially not seeing my truck taking up half of the lane in time, I quickly searched the contents of my purse on the floor for my phone. I grabbed it and got out of my truck and walked behind it a little to where there was more of a shoulder to the road. I looked at my phone. I had no cell phone service. “Are you kidding me?” I wanted to cry. Oh, the irony of it all – breaking down in the middle of nowhere had been the primary reason for why I had wanted a cell phone! As I looked around, I began to panic a little. For as far as I could see any direction, all I could see were redwood trees. There were no homes or businesses nearby, and I was pretty sure that the next town was a twenty minute drive away. Not a single car had gone by since I had crashed. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I was shivering, and very frightened. I began to pray “Oh God, please help me. Please send someone to help me.”
I stood there for five more minutes and two cars drove by. But neither one even slowed down. My panic grew. “What if no one even bothers to stop!” I whimpered, as one of little faith would. Ten more minutes passed and I was getting mentally prepared to start walking as I could feel my fingers and toes start to go numb. My truck looked like it had a flat front tire and a dent in the side fender. Considering the speed at which I had been traveling, I couldn’t believe the body damage wasn’t worse.
Suddenly, a man driving a large truck going by saw me and slammed on his brakes just as he went past my truck. The truck backed up and pulled off the road and parked. “Someone is stopping!” I internally cheered. But my rejoicing turned to fear almost immediately. I suspiciously eyed the man, feeling more vulnerable than ever. My heart was racing. “Lord, is this someone you sent to help me?” I prayed. “Or is this a bad man?” I hadn’t died in my truck accident. But I could die from the hands of this man, of whom I knew nothing about, out in the middle of no where. Every horrible news story I had ever read about women getting murdered in isolated areas surfaced. The isolation of my location felt suddenly overwhelming.
I had no idea of the answer to my question, but I calmed down a bit when I saw the logo of a familiar logging company on the man’s truck. The middle aged bearded man got out of his cab and immediately proceeded to talk about the black ice. “I helped with two accidents in this exact same place due to black ice just last week,” he said. “One lady literally drove over the embankment a little further on and went down into a ravine. It was a miracle that I saw her down there as I was driving by.” Apparently, as he drove that section of road several days a week for his job, he was a black ice Good Samaritan. He seemed nice enough, although a little rough around the edges. We walked over to my truck and he determined that I had a flat tire and my truck needed to be moved out of the road. I followed his instructions and he someone was able to move my truck out of the road. He got to work on changing out the tires while I stood gratefully and rather helplessly nearby.
Five minutes later, a truck pouring sand onto the icy road drove by. I shook my head in disbelief. If I had left just thirty minutes later I wouldn’t have been in such a debacle! The Good Samaritan man eventually finished the (what appeared to be) rather difficult job of changing the tire, probably because of the damage to the front fender in the accident. “We’re only about twenty minutes from Leightonville,” he told me. “It’s a small town but they have a tire shop there. I’ll follow you to the tire shop to make sure you arrive safely.” I held my breath. This man had been so incredibly helpful and kind. But he was also a bit odd in some ways. Even though I was grateful, I still didn’t trust him. In any case, I knew I couldn’t get very far on my spare tire, which wasn’t inflated enough. Going to a tire shop was good suggestion.
I got back into the truck, and, shaking from the entire experience, set back onto the highway and toward Leightonville. The truck was extremely hard to control, and was pulling hard to the right like a lousy Walmart shopping cart. I almost drove off the road every time I took one hand off the steering wheel in order to shift gears.
I looked in the review mirror – the man was driving close behind me, as he said he would be. We both finally arrived in Leightonville and pulled into the tire shop. I wasn’t sure if the man was going to keep driving on at this point, now that I had arrived safely to the tire shop. But he got out of his truck, went inside the tire shop for a few minutes and came out, telling me as he climbed back into his truck “I told them not to charge you too much.” I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the man for his kind act of stopping to change my tire. I offered him the only money I had, $20, but he smiled, said it was nothing, and promptly left.
As I walked into the tire shop I thanked God for sending me someone after all. I hadn’t trusted the man until he was literally driving away, but I was still glad that he had stopped to help me.
At the tire shop, it turned out that the air had been knocked out of my tire, and that it was repairable. They didn’t seem to have a set fee for fixing that sort of thing, so they asked, “How about $20?” I shook my head in amazement as I handed over my sole monetary bill. Despite my panic and my fears, God had worked out every single detail. I would look back on this moment for years to come and learn to trust God better.
I was finally able to call my family from the tire shop. Because my car was pulling to the right so horrendously, my parents encouraged me to make the much shorter drive to Santa Rosa where my Grandparents lived. I could take my car to a mechanic there and get it fixed. It sounded like a good plan, but first I called my employer to let them know there was no way I would be able to make it into work that afternoon. I then made the arduous drive to Santa Rosa where my grandparents met me at a mechanic’s shop. It was determined there that my truck had a broken steering arm, and that it would take a couple of days to be repaired. As I closed my eyes while riding in the backseat of my Grandparent’s car, all I knew was that I was happy to not be driving anymore.
Two days later, I was at last on my way home from my Grandparent’s house. I was surprised when I had flashbacks of the accident the entire way home. Visions of my truck crashing would blindside me even when barely moving. Driving felt terrifying. The reality of the whole ordeal was finally setting in, and my brain was switching out of survival mode. I pulled into my parents’ home, shut the truck door and walked inside. My Mom was home and there to greet me. As soon as I saw her face, I burst into tears. She pulled me in and hugged me hard. She held me close as the tears kept coming. I had survived crashing at 65 mph with just bruises. I had been watched over and cared for. I was home.