Personal Narrative

18 Apr

“Please can we look at the shoes real quick? Just for like a minute?” I pleaded with my mom as we made our way to the check-out line at Target.

“No Vanessa. They’re about to close. It’s almost 10 o’clock, lets go.”

“Ugh, please Mom?” I tried one more time, but to no avail.

“You don’t need any more shoes, Vanessa. You already have shoes you don’t even wear.”

She was right. I had shoes I’d never worn, but it wasn’t really that I needed a new pair. I just wanted to look at them, and then maybe I’d want a new pair, but even then – wanting and needing were two completely different things.

As we were leaving Target, she agreed to let me drive home. I had just received my permit a few weeks before and was taking full advantage of every opportunity I had to get behind the wheel. On the way home we talked about hockey and school and she made the occasional, concerned parent, “Pay attention to the road,” comment. I’d lived in the same house since the day I was brought home from the hospital, and the three mile drive from Target was one I’d made a million times. However, this time would be one that I would never forget.

When it came to driving, I was fearless. I loved the feeling of being in control of a car. I was never hesitant about learning to drive and signed up for drivers-ed the day I turned 14 years and 8 months old. Now that I had my permit I couldn’t wait to get my drivers license, and at that time I was well on my way to fulfilling the 50 hours of practice time it required.

I flipped on the left turn signal and merged my mom’s GMC, pop-top, conversion van into the left hand turn lane. Two cars were coming down the street in the opposite direction. The one in the lane closest to us was slightly ahead of the other. I could tell the one was picking up speed as it was slowly cutting out the other car’s headlights. Over the ticking of the turn signal I said to my mom, “That car’s going pretty fast. I think I’ll just wait.” She looked over at me and agreed, “Better to be safe then sorry.”

I remember every part of what happened next as if it took 2 hours to unfold, but in truth it was only seconds. I had planned on waiting momentarily for the two cars to pass us, but just then I noticed the car closest to us starting to veer into our lane, coming at us head on. I remember thinking that I couldn’t just make the left turn to avoid the inevitable crash because there was another car in the far lane. I saw the on-coming headlights getting bigger and bigger, the bright white light pouring through the windshield until I couldn’t see anything else. I managed to turn the van just enough to the left to avoid a full head on collision. After the blinding headlights disappeared the blackness filled with red and blue flashing lights. Where was my mom? Was she hurt? Had I passed out? Was I hurt? I was convinced I’d had a few unconscious moments because it felt like the police were there almost instantly.

I heard my mom’s voice, “Vanessa – are you okay?” She was still right next to me in the passenger seat. As I was realizing what happened, I remember having a moment of sharp pain in my left leg, but then the adrenaline took over and my mind and body when into shock. I got out of the van and began pacing around to digest the scene. About 20 feet from our van the police were helping a limp, off-balanced man out of a little, red, boxy car. He was smaller than the officers, his black hair disheveled, wearing a white undershirt, his blue jeans unbuttoned and his belt hanging open. The man was missing his shoes, wearing only white socks which looked too big for his feet. As I was wandering around in the street still trying to comprehend the mess I could hear the man rambling some incoherent nonsense. I heard the officer’s question, “Sir, have you been drinking?”

That was all I needed to send me into an emotional fit – the tears started pouring faster than they already were. I had always been an advocate of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and was firmly against driving while under the influence. To hear that my mom and I had just been hit by a drunk driver was like being struck with a sledge hammer. A police officer came over and helped me find my way to the grassy street corner so I could sit down, assuring me that I was safer there than wandering around in the middle of the street. As I sat there I could feel my heart pounding through my entire body, the salty taste of tears on my lips and my hands trembling as I held my head in them.

Eight houses down, on the street I was about to turn into my dad heard the crash while he was watching TV in our living room. He came out of the house to see what happened and upon seeing my mom’s van surrounded by the glow of red and blue police lights he threw up right on the front porch. He said it was one of the most petrifying feelings he’s ever had. He ran down the street, passing our on-looking neighbors and was elated to find that we were alive and well.

The driver of the car that hit us was a man named Joey Jay. The brother of a Michigan state representative. He had previously been convicted of three other DUI’s and was driving on a suspended license. A few moments before he hit us he was in a near collision at an intersection up the road. The driver of the other car that was driving next to his before the crash was on the phone with the police and had actually been following him. This was why they were able to avoid hitting us when I tried to make the left turn. There were several other 9-1-1 calls which were the reason for the almost instant police arrival. Apparently the cops were mere car lengths behind him and saw the entire crash as it was occurring. The police told us later that the man had blown through red lights at multiple small intersections previous to hitting us and managed to avoid crashes with numerous cars. Less than a quarter of a mile farther from where we were was a very busy six lane, four way intersection. I believe that everything happens for a reason – that maybe him hitting us prevented him from t-boning an un-expecting car in the upcoming intersection.

The pain in my knee came back later that night once the shock subsided. After a trip to the emergency room I was fitted in a knee brace and told to stay off my feet for a few months. I had vivid visions of Joey Jay’s drunken state as he was being escorted out of his car and recurring dreams where blinding headlights would turn a pleasant dream into an over-exposed nightmare. Thankfully we had a lot of support from our local MADD chapter and after some counseling I was finally able to get past it. My mom and I were very lucky – we both walked away with injuries that we would recover from with time.

The day after the crash I jokingly said to my mom, “We should have stopped to look at the shoes.” To this day, we always take the time to stop and see the shoes.


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