I had an excellent childhood, two loving parents, and I was a good kid. I didn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. Not yet. I would eventually dabble in all three, but that’s another story for another time. I was 17 and invincible. I was a football player, and at that age, I couldn’t fathom how fragile the human body really is. I couldn’t possibly understand that we are only here for a cosmic blink of an eye.
There were two passengers with me. Both friends of mine. Both a year younger. We’d been out playing miniature golf at Putt Putt. We were running late getting home, and I didn’t want to be late. I didn’t want to disappoint, to…take advantage of the trust I had with my parents. None of us were wearing seat belts.
It was summer and I remember the heat. It was so damn hot, oppressively hot and muggy. I remember making a right down Glasgow Drive. I’ve no idea how fast I was driving. I remembered too late the curve at the end of the street, and I was driving too fast to make it safely. I remember trying to brake, turning the wheel, willing the car to stop. I remember twisting my body, gripping the steering wheel with both hands at the “12 O’ Clock” position and I remember thinking “this is gonna hurt”.
I remember a loud boom as the car hit the tree, then nothing…then…I heard static…the radio. Someone pulled me from the wreckage. To this day, I’ve no idea who. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked around. One of my friends was lying on the ground beside me. I grabbed his hand, squeezed and tried to tell him everything would be ok. His eyes were wide open. he didn’t respond. He was in shock.
I could hear the sirens getting closer. I couldn’t seem make my eyes focus and my nose was running. I reached up to wipe it and my hand came away bloody. My nose felt like mashed potatoes. I thought it was weird that it didn’t hurt. Now I knew why my vision was blurry. I’m pretty sure the cops arrived first. Officer Brown questioned me. I told him I was the driver, we were on our way home. No we hadn’t been drinking. No we don’t do drugs. I gave him my licence. I told him to keep it, that I wouldn’t be needing it again. I felt sure my parents would never let me drive again. He laughed and told me to hang onto it anyway.
I knew my leg was broken. It was numb, I couldn’t move it, and it was doing a very unnatural “U” turn. Weird that it didn’t hurt. Yet.
By this time the paramedics had arrived and had begun working on me. I tried to cooperate but I wanted to know where my other friend was. I kept asking about him and i was meet by blank stares. “We’re working on you. We don’t know about him.” I told them his dad was a Captain on the police force, but I couldn’t get any answers from them. My heart sank. I felt sick, like I was going to throw up. “He’s dead”, I thought. “I killed him”.
As they put me in the ambulance, I remember feeling very cold, and thinking how amazing these people were who were working on me. They were sweating, I could see it. All the way to the hospital all I could think about was the friend I had killed. That and how it was weird that I didn’t feel any pain.
This is a true story. I publish it now because I have a niece who is turning 16 and is learning to drive. I don’t hold much hope that it will make much difference. I doubt hearing this story would have made any difference to my 17 year old self. But if just one person passes this story and pictures on to their kid and it makes them slow down…
The pain finally came, and stayed for months. My other friend lived. They had to cut him out of the car. He was lodged between the passenger seat and the passenger door. He had been ridding in the back seat. I cannot begin to describe to you how it feels to think you killed someone. I hope no one ever has to feel that.