A Near-Death Experience Shook me to my Core
Now that my anxiety has calmed down a little bit, I'm ready to talk about the time I almost lost everything.
Last week, there was a police pursuit in Evansville that ended in a fatal collision. A 19-year-old robbery suspect had stolen his girlfriend's vehicle after an argument and lead police on a high-speed chase. Eventually the suspect crashed head-on into a semi, killing him instantly.
I read a lot of comments under the news articles on Facebook and some made my heart sink. Some people went as far as to say the man deserved it, others said they'd pray for his family. Not that my opinion matters, but a young man lost his life. I think it's important to remember that...regardless of the things he did leading up to that point.
It might be unclear why I'm talking about this accident, but I promise it has significance. You see, I passed that man on Hwy 65 that day. I saw him less than 20 seconds before he lost his life. I'll tell you the story.
I had just picked my son up from my sister's house. She lives around the area of Hwy 65 and she babysits for me a few days a week. I'm very fortunate for that. Some days I rush out after picking up my son, and other days I'll linger around, play with my nephews, and talk to my sister about what's going on in our lives. That day I lingered. I had the time.
Looking back, I wonder what would've happened if I hadn't lingered - or what if I had lingered longer. I guess you can always ask yourself the "what-ifs" in these types of situations. Regardless, I left when I did and I was put into a situation that makes my chest feel tight when I think about it.
I was driving down the highway and I had just passed Cynthia Heights Elementary School. My niece goes to school there and I always wonder which window she's looking through when I pass. I went to school there too. I lived on that side of town my entire youth. I drove that road thousands and thousands of times as a teenager, and now I drive it multiple times a week to pick my son up. I know it like the back of my hand. Maybe that's why I was so zoned out when it happened.
If you're familiar with the highway, you know there are some sharp curves. One of those sharp curves cost the kid his life that day in his attempt to flee from the police. I was easing around the curve after the elementary school when I noticed a white Prius coming toward me at a high rate of speed. I was listening to my podcast, completely zoned out, that I didn't even have time to process what was happening. At that moment I realized what people say really is true - you never know until it's too late.
I remember seeing the cop not too far behind him and realizing he was running from them. I remember him passing me and making eye contact. I remember that he had facial hair. I remember thinking he was silly for attempting to outrun the police in a Prius. I remember thinking, "dude, just stop. You're not going to get away." And he didn't. All that happened in less than 10 seconds. Fortunately for me and my 1-year-old son, the man stayed in his lane as he passed us. Had he not, it would've been us he hit head-on that day. I know that would've resulted in more fatalities than him alone. That realization destroys me.
By the time I reached St. Joe Avenue, I had passed about 10 more cops and eventually an ambulance. I knew when I saw the ambulance that the man had wrecked. I was right. What I wasn't prepared for was just how soon after I passed him he had wrecked. It was rainy that day and the roads were slick, especially around the sharp curves on highway 65. At that moment, I was very aware that I was probably the last person to see this man alive. I was also numb at the fact that it could've been me he hit. He could've killed both myself and my son.
That realization put me down that day. I couldn't really process it. Until then, I had never had a "near death" experience. I remember looking into the backseat at my son, who was so innocently looking out the window, and crying because it could've been us. It could've been him. Thank God it wasn't. As a parent, I already worry about every single horrible situation that could happen in my child's life. That day I came face-to-face with one of my biggest fears. The thought of something ever happening to him keeps me up at night. Being a parent is beautiful, but absolutely terrifying.
I don't think anyone deserved to die that day. I think it was a really, really stupid decision that had devastating consequences. I think of the man's girlfriend and how the last words to her boyfriend were probably filled of insults and anger. My heart breaks for her for that. I think of the man's family that lost their son, brother, nephew, friend, right before the holidays. I think of how if he could've done it differently, maybe he would've. I think of the semi driver and what he must have witnessed. I think of how he might have trouble doing his job every day for the rest of his life now. I think of how he is probably hurting both physically and mentally.
I also think that I'm really, really glad I'm still alive today. I'm glad I wasn't a moving part in this unfortunate story. I am so, so thankful that it wasn't my time to go. I'm fortunate that I wasn't part of a lesson or example anybody else. No, I didn't have to dodge this man as he sped around the corner. No, he didn't "come close" to hitting me. But that's not the point. My son's life was in danger. My life was in danger. The point is, had I been a turn sooner, had I left just minutes later, maybe it would've been me he wrecked into. It is a gut-wrenching feeling.
Life is so short. That day I realized just how short it really can be. I learned a few lessons that day. One - always be alert when you're driving. Defensive driving makes so much more sense now. Two - hug your loved ones tight. Everyone has loved ones - "good" people, and people who might not make the best decisions. Don't say things you'll regret. Hug them. Love them indefinitely. They can be gone in seconds. And three - be kind. Be kind to each other and to people who are grieving. Be respectful to everyone. You truly don't know everyone's situation or what someone is going through. Believe people can change. Help them change. Change with them.