The Quest Begins
Living With Gratitude…
I am so grateful that many years ago we had chosen to live our lives this way because once again death reared its ugly head but this time we faced it together. It was June 7th, 2011, John and I were helping my parents whom had just sold their home in Penticton and were in the process of moving to Victoria. Seeing them safely off at the airport with my sister Glennis who accompanied them on their light we took the evening to relax.
The plan was for me to drive my parents car packed with all their valuables the next day and John would follow me in our car to their new place in Sidney BC. We decided to have dinner in Kelowna and because we had dropped them off in my Dad’s car we ended up taking the relatively short trip up the highway in it.
All went well until the fateful return trip home. It had been raining quite heavily which was unusual for this area but the rain had let up quite a bit when we approached a wide curve in the highway very near Summerland. The highway had widened into 4 lanes by now and I was in the slow lane with a mini school bus slightly ahead of me in the passing lane. I could see the water flowing down a very steep hill and as I curved around to begin my approach up it all of a sudden in the corner of my left eye I saw a flash of red. In an instant I saw a red car at a very high speed coming down it in the fast lane and veering across the center line headed straight into the path of the oncoming school bus. I knew immediately there was not enough time nor space to avoid the impeding collision.
My first thought was ironically not about us but of the drivers of the red car and the school bus because from my vantage point they would be killed instantly from the collision. Unable to avoid becoming collateral damage and bracing for impact my next thought was just to hold the wheel steady to minimize the chance of us rolling over and flipping. It all happened so quickly I didn’t even have time to be scared I just reacted as rationally as I could under the life or death circumstances we now were in. Now our survival was all I cared about.
I can remember vividly the power of the jolt of impacting the back of the school bus and I knew that there was a huge concrete barrier to our right that would be most unforgiving when and if we were to hit it. I was actually bracing to go under the back of the bus because my Dad’s car was fairly small, an Alero, or we would flip and crash into the barrier. But then something really strange happened.
Time and space stood still. I had no sense of time nor of anything around me almost as if I was in a cushioned bubble. I could hear the horrific crunching of metal around me and all the sounds of the crash but I felt no other external sensations other than holding my arms straight out and keeping my hands firmly planted on the wheel. Finally the sounds stopped and I felt the car still going… What may have been mere seconds in reality seemed like an eternity to us. Both John and I now in shock we stared across to one another in disbelief of what had just happened. For one weird instant I honestly didn’t know if we actually had survived it or had died together and we seeing each other on the other side… All I cared about at that moment was that we were still together and seemingly in one piece!
Quickly regaining our composure we looked back at the carnage we had just somehow miraculously squeezed through. Immediately we could smell and feel the smoke and flames coming from the wreckage scattered all over the highway just behind us. Seconds later came the sounds of the screams from the kids on the school bus. I tried to get out my door which had been totally crunched by the impact of the bus but John’s instincts as an old lifeguard kicked in and he ran back to save the driver of the red car which was now in flames. Battling the dense chemical smoke and choking for air, John could just make out the look of horror etched in the face of the driver. Ignoring his own safety John tugged hopelessly at the victim’s lifeless body. Even to this day the memory of this poor man’s face still haunts him.
Eventually we were all whisked away in several different ambulances. There were helicopters and media crews and the highway was closed for hours. Luckily there were no other fatalities which was a miracle in itself however one girl was airlifted to Kelowna in a coma and there were several broken bones and lots of bruises suffered by the students.
Still to this day I can’t fathom how we physically managed to get through the accident the way we did. We both banged our heads quite severely and my ribs were badly bruised along with minor scrapes and a few bumps. Considering the horrific chain of events they were all relatively minor. Probably the worst of the injuries was the emotional trauma we suffered which is so much harder to heal from. I must admit we both are much more tense and anxious when we drive and I always look two or three times before changing lanes or turning a corner.
However we are just thankful to have survived it together and once again have been graciously gifted with more time with each other. I will always wonder why on that very morning of the accident I had carefully placed something very special to me in the back seat of that car. It was my grandmother’s ashes. She was in life as now in her death, my guardian angel…