Near death experience on Christmas Eve

23 Jan

So this last Christmas, my parents decided to visit family in Dallas.  4-5 hour plane ride, right?  Nope, not if you are Mexican! Try 27 hour road trip!!!  So naturally I volunteered to tag along to help my dad with the drive.  About 17 hours into it, right around Pecos, Texas, the temperature drops down to 27 degrees Fahrenheit and it starts snowing.  Right away we started seeing cars off the side of the I-20, stranded; you could tell that they had lost control and swerved off the road.  We stopped shortly before arriving in Odessa and apparently, after speaking with the locals, it had not snowed in that area in a long time and we were warned that we should be weary of black ice that forms in the overpasses.  So leaving Odessa we drove around 35 MPH on the I-20 going east, nervous and excited, everything around us was white and the sky was grey and cloudy.

On the I-20 heading East

15-20 minutes after leaving Odessa, as we cross an overpass driving on the left lane of the highway, the back left side of the car hits some sort of bump.  I’m sitting behind my dad on the drivers’ side, my mother is sleeping in the front passenger seat and my uncle is doing the same right behind her.  After we hit the bump, the black side of our truck started swerving to the dividing ditch between the two highways and I see my dad turning the wheel but the car does nothing.  Everything is quiet and eerie.  I’ve never seen my dad freak out, but I can hear him mumbling, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”  The truck finally reacts to the sudden turn of the wheel and breaks hard right into the steel barrier.  We hit the barrier at an angle, the force of the blow rocking us back and forth in the cabin.  Immediately after scraping the whole right side of the truck, things take a spin for the worse.  The truck immediately darts left, toward the dividing ditch and the opposite highway.  This is were things began to feel very existential.

By this time, my dad had lost complete control of the car.  The wheel would not react to any turns; the brakes were useless; and the accelerator just skidded the wheels on the ice covered ground.  We go into the ditch and things slow down for me…

I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, none of us were because we had been driving so slow (and after 17 hours on the road comfort is hard to find), and we were being tossed around the cabin.  I could see an 18 wheeler, going on the I-20 West, at the right speed and direction to hit us, head on if and when we crossed the highway.  At this point, I had not made a single sound, but I figured this was it.  I was waiting for that corny “your life flashing before your eyes” thing that supposedly happens in moments like this.  All I could think of was, “this is it, this is how it ends.”  We make it up the ditch, and the 18 wheeler is so close now that I can see the drivers’ face so clearly.  My heart is pounding. It’s quiet.  We manage to make it over the highway, 2-3 feet ahead of the trailer.  We got so close to the 18 wheeler that I could see the driver’s panicked face as he braced himself for the collision.  It was unreal making it across the highway.

After marginally escaping what would have become us smeared on the highway, we go down another dividing ditch but this time between the I-20 West and the service road.  We could see the oncoming traffic on the service road was reacting to the sight of a runaway black truck just cutting across the ditch.  We manage to miss most of the traffic, but we clip another truck on the left driver’s side and that is what bring us to a stop.

The tire marks give a good indication of how close we came to a clusterf#@$!

Everything is quiet when we finally come to a stop.  I can sense in everyone in the cabin that we just went through a live changing moment.  We immediately jump out of the car and take in some fresh air.  I’ve never smoked in front of my dad because he’s never offered me a cigarette but this time, with a shaky hand he offers me a Malboro.  We take deep drags in the cold snow.  I could see his hands trembling violently.  My mom is in tears, joyful that we are alive and well.  My uncle is quiet and reserved.  My dad’s eyes are red and his look is nervous and relieved.  I start laughing; perhaps out of relief or realization of what just happened.  I laugh because it’s over and because the situation was out of our control.  It was all luck and chance.

With 9 hours to go, the only damage the truck sustained was a torn power steering hose.

My uncle finally speaks, “It just wasn’t our time.”

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