If I'm not making the conscious effort not to think about Sunday, the memories rush at me vividly. I see the truck zooming towards us. I feel the breath taken away from me as I think we're going to be able to get out of his way and then the realization that we can't. I see his truck hit us as I'm twisting in my seat to grab for my children. I see Zoe's face. I see the truck. I feel the impact. I hear Finnegan screaming. I see Zoe's face. I hear the impact. And he hits us. It feels like he hits us again, and again, and again. I don't understand what is happening. Why is he hitting us over and over again?! I feel the hoarseness in my throat as I scream. I'm screaming over and over again. I'm yelling for God. I'm yelling for my little girl. I'm cursing the other driver. Why is he doing this to us?! I'm seeing Zoe's little face, it is contorted, sobbing, screaming. I'm hearing my children screaming and crying with me. I can't hear my husband. I can't see him. All I can see is my little girl who I can't get to. I can't see Finnegan. My little baby Finnegan. I'm sure we're all going to die. He keeps hitting us! I feel no physical pain. I am sure that I will live, but I don't think my family will. "Oh God! Oh God!"
When the violent movement stopped, I braced myself. I stared at my daughter. I was still sobbing. I could not stop screaming. Could not stop the violent lurching in my chest. Zoe's eyes were open. She was crying. Calling for Mama and Daddy. She was alive. Finn was shrieking - alive. Daniel was alive. Maybe it wasn't that bad, I thought. And then I saw Zoe's blood. Small pieces of glass in her forehead. I don't remember taking off my seat belt, but I remember lunging backwards to reach for them. I need to see Finnegan's face, but it is so hard to see him when he is behind me and facing the rear. Zoe is bleeding. She is reaching for me. I see the blood. I'm still screaming and crying. I think I am calling the other driver horrible names. Screaming. I'm seeing him walk towards us. I want him away from us. I'm screaming at him, "Fuck you!" Why is he walking towards us? Who is he? I want him far, far away from my family. I must be scaring my children so much, but I can't stop the screaming. I see a red bandanna that Daniel bought me on our honeymoon in Ashland. I feel like I haven't seen it in ages, but there it is on the floor and I grab it and put it to Zoe's forehead. Must stop the bleeding. Stop bleeding! Why is it spilling out in slow motion. It feels like so much blood. I don't want to push the glass in further. This is a NIGHTMARE. I've had this nightmare before, but it was not so violent as this.
Daniel is reaching for Zoe, reaching for Finnegan. He's still in the driver's seat. I'm screaming, holding the bandanna to her head. People are rushing towards us. I get out. Daniel is on the phone. 911. I hear people all around me calling 911. The block is spinning. A man is next to Zoe. He's talking to someone on his phone. He's saying she's going to be OK. Is she going to be OK? I'm having trouble breathing. My chest hurts. I think something has stabbed me, but I see nothing. I have my daughter's blood on my hands. I'm shaking and crying. A lady is at Finnegan's side. Touching him. Checking him. She has long brown hair and sunglasses, I think. I can't see her face, but I can hear her voice still. "He's OK. She's going to be OK. You're OK. Breathe."
I hear sirens. We are in the middle of the intersection. I'm running around to Zoe's side of the car. I've grabbed one of Finnegan's burp cloths - it's white with turquoise polka dots and now someone is using it to stop Zoe's bleeding. The red bandanna is discarded. Zoe is sobbing. Zoe wants water. I look to the left of the car and see her little pink juice cup ten feet from the car, on the asphalt. I'm shaking but I pick it up, unscrew the lid to check that it's OK and offer it to her but she doesn't want it now. I'm walking to the other side of the car. Finn is not crying. He's just looking around. Quiet, but they tell me he's OK. I get my phone.
Cheryl. We need Cheryl and Chuck. I call her. I don't remember what I say. She doesn't understand me. I have to repeat myself. I tell her to come. I need her. We need her.
I hear sirens.
Mom and Dad. I call them. On their way home from Vegas. I don't know what to say, the words just come. "We are OK, but Zoe is bleeding and I need you. I need you. Be careful, but I NEED you."
EMT's come. I see firemen. One of the firemen puts his hand on my shoulder, asks me if I'm hurt. I tell him yes, but I keep grabbing at my chest. I tell him I hurt in my chest, it burns. I'm still crying. I can't breathe. He tells me I'm OK. He tells me we'll be OK. He says it's normal to feel the way I do, I'm OK. Zoe is out of the car. I don't know how they got her because she is still in her car seat and they cannot open her door. EMT guy asks me if I want Finnegan in the ambulance. Yes! In the ambulance! Take him. Take her! I want to know they are OK. I want to know they are safe. Police woman takes my husband to ask questions. Fireman is asking my name. Asking my children's names and ages. He wants to know where my husband is.
"Talking to the officer."
"The older gentleman?"
I'm getting frustrated. Where is my husband? Why does the fireman not see him? Is something wrong? Why does he think I am married to the old man? I lean out of the back of the ambulance, "THERE!"
The EMT has given Zoe a teddy bear with a blue t-shirt. She's hugging it to her body. Gripping it. She's not crying. I'm not crying. We are in the ambulance. Finn is staring at me. I'm holding Zoe's little hand. We both have her blood on us. Her eyes are bright blue from crying and they contrast with the red on her head, the bright yellow of her pretty sundress. A nurse in the ER later tells me that I can get the stains out, but I want to throw the dress away. I never want to see it again. I never want to see anything associated with the accident ever again.
I'm not OK.
I am grateful that my family is alive. Grateful my children are now safe. Grateful not to be a widow. But I am not OK. I am angry. I am scared. I am stressed. I've been reliving the "accident" over and over again for the last 24 hours. No. It's 11:06 am. We were hit right about now on Sunday. 48 hours. I'm trying to keep it together. I'm trying to focus on what a gift we've been given to all be alive. I'm trying to be myself and laugh and joke, but I just want to scream. I want this pain in my body to be gone. I want me heart to stop hurting. I want to stop reliving the wreck in forward and reverse.
I want to know why that man needed to get where he was going so fast. Why did he run the red light?! Why were his needs more important than anyone else's on the road? He could have killed us all. The police officer specifically said we are all "lucky to be alive." It's "amazing there were no fatalities". "Those car seats saved your children."
Even if that man had had an emergency, I can't help but wonder why he thought his emergency was more important than anyone else. You run a red light and you risk every one's life. Are my children less important than you getting to your appointment, rehearsal, meal, tee time? I don't get it. HOW DARE YOU TAKE MY FAMILY'S LIFE IN YOUR HANDS AND MAKE THE DECISION THAT WE ARE LESS IMPORTANT!?
I'm having trouble right now. I don't know how or when I'm going to get over the feeling that we were all going to die. I'm having trouble not thinking about all the what ifs. What if Daniel's door had gotten the brunt of the impact instead of Zoe's? He would not have made it. He didn't have all that side impact protection that Zoe had with her car seat. What if we hadn't secured the car seats correctly? What if the glass recycling in the back had not been covered (moments before the accident I almost took the cart cover Daniel had thrown over it off because I didn't want a $50 material item to get dirty)? The glass broke into shards and tiny pieces. That glass was right behind my son who was facing the rear of the vehicle. The glass could have hit him. The glass could have flown all around and cut all of us very, badly. As violent and horrible as the accident was, it could have been 400 times worse.
"Those car seats saved your children."
I will never be the same again.
And I hope that everyone I know never will be either. Drive safe. Please. Drive. Safe.