Sometimes something in life happens that is so momentous that it needs to be documented. It’s not fun to remember, and you may not even want to look at it again for many years but it will be there when the time comes.
> note: these two did not die in this accident, nor were they terribly injured. they should have died, though, with what that suv went through. that’s why this mom (me) made this album. i still have my kids, today, and for that I am thankful. grateful. and i want everyone to know that on that particular night two lives were spared. side note: there were no drugs or alcohol involved. just luck and angels. and a really great guy.
This particular event was a one car accident. It happened at 11:45pm on a Saturday night in the middle of a summer heat wave just past the Grapevine in Southern California. These young adults took a road trip and didn’t tell anyone- they thought they’d get back into town before anyone even noticed. But that’s not what happened. This ended up being the longest night of my life, not including being in labor with this same child.
I made a bigger album with more detail for our family but I made this album as a Thank You for the young man that happened upon the accident while traveling back, coincidentally, to the area that we live.
This is a 7×7 Creative Memories Album made in 2008, two years after the accident. We had planned to meet up with this young man but our paths haven’t crossed yet and I decided to send this album until we meet in person. He’s not going to get rid of me! 🙂 #friendsforlife
This album tells a little about the young couple and the weeks leading up the their road trip, their carefree days together as they started their summer vacation.
The story: A new love interest, the prom, a high school graduation, a family trip to Hawaii where they even swam with dolphins.
And then they took that fateful trip to San Diego to go to ComicCon. I believe they were there for two days and one night, this being the second night, the night they they drove home.
Now, this accident didn’t involve another car. But it tumbled, and rolled, and rolled some more- it looks like it rolled in every possible way that it could. Doors even open and shut while rolling, clothing items were found twisted and pulled tight from inside, with the door closed on them. The door was jammed shut so there was no way to even open it when it was all over. Later, they recalled looking at each other as the car flipped over and over, while the girl was screaming. When the car finally stopped, it was upside down. Dust, dirt and weeds were everywhere. Both were trapped, injured and bleeding. And then a car came upon the scene. No other cars were around. This was a desolate part of the freeway as you can see in the photo. The young man and his parents came upon this accident right after it happened. The dust was still up. They jumped out of their car and ran up to my son’s car.
I don’t know who got the girl out but she was out and my son was trapped, upside down, still wearing his seatbelt. Blood was dripping from his head. He was in and out of consciousness. He remembers hearing someone talking to him. He thought it was the ambulance or paramedics. He kept saying, ‘Hurry…hurry.’ They asked him what his name was and he told them. And then he did something he didn’t even remember: he gave the man his home phone number.
“Hello. Are You Jarred’s mother?”
No one wants to ever hear those words in the middle of the night. And I knew it wasn’t good. He said: “He has been in an accident and the car is upside down. He is talking but he is bleeding from his head. My father is calling 911.” I could hear the girl crying, screaming, hysterical actually. My son was moaning and I could hear him uttering words. I got up and had to wake my husband. He had just got home from working 9 hours with a 2 hour drive home and fell right asleep. I asked the young man on the phone, “Where are you?!” he said, “We’re right past The Grapevine.” My mind was swirling…did he mean Pacheco Pass, an hour from here? I couldn’t think. Where was he?? And then the young man said, ‘We’re just past L.A.” I said “LA?!! Los Angeles? He’s in Los Angeles?? Where?” He went on to tell me the exact, numbered exit. I wrote it down but all I could think of was ‘What is the fastest way there? Is there a plane? Something besides a car?!’ I asked the young man, “Will you please stay on the phone with me? Tell me what’s happening- don’t hang up, ok?” He said that he wouldn’t. I learned later that he was only a few years older than my son and his voice was calm, and reassuring. My husband was now awake as were our two younger kids. I handed him the phone and began walking through the house, shaking my hands, confused, yet packing clothes, and shoes, and toiletries, looking for a bag to put it all in. For some reason, when I am in a stressful situation my first instinct is ‘don’t cry’. I don’t want to stress out anyone else so I try to keep calm. And my younger kids were there, and now my mother had come down from her apartment in the back of our house- the kids had run up there on their own to go get her.
As I ran around getting things to take with us, my husband remained on the phone, talking all the while, and listening, as the young man, and later his father, told my husband what was happening, what rescue people were arriving, The phone call lasted for 45 minutes. He remained on the phone as they cut my son out of the car with the jaws of life. I’m so glad I didn’t know that was happening while I was running around. I am also glad that my husband did not tell me that he was being taken to the hospital in a helicopter. We already had a several hour drive to get out there. At this point we were 7 hours away from arriving at the hospital. I would have been a nightmare in the car had I known that.
As we started to drive all I could say was “Is there a faster way to get there? Is this the fastest way? Could we go to the airport? Is he going to be ok? Did they make it sound like he was dying or was he just injured?” After driving about an hour my husband started to get really tired. At about 2am, we pulled over into a truck stop, where there weren’t restaurants or gas stations..just bathrooms. And it was still 100 degrees outside- dry, hot, Central Valley California heat. I would’ve drove but before he even got home I had taken the medication I was on for my back- I needed surgery and I was in a lot of pain. My only option was to sit there, in the dark, in the heat, while my husband slept. For an hour. Longest hour ever. Finally, he woke up and we got back on the road. We were driving about an hour when he had to pull over again for another nap! Poor guy was exhausted! And I was a frantic mother! After we started driving again, a highway patrolman called and told us what was happening, and where the hospital was that we were going to. Now, this was in 2006 -8.5 years ago- we didn’t have a GPS, or a speaker phone in the car. I had to listen, hold my phone and write at the same time. As we finally got closer, we exited where we were told to exit and from there the hospital was about 30-45 minutes away from the freeway! No wonder they needed a helicopter. Anyway. FiNALLY. We arrived at the hospital at about 7am. We walked into emergency and they didn’t know my son’s name. They had him listed under the name ‘Sierra’. And he wasn’t in his little room. And his girlfriend was somewhere else. And then the moment finally arrived I had been thinking about since I answered the phone 7 hours ago- they wheeled my son in, on a bed. He had been taken for some tests. I went up to him and he smiled and I gently touched him and kissed his cheek. And he said: “You’re lucky you didn’t get here earlier. My face, chest and arms were covered in blood. They just washed it all off. And then another nurse came in and brought the girlfriend in on her wheeled bed into the same room as my son. I went and hugged and kissed her gently, as well. And do you know what she said to us?
“How did you get here so fast?!!”
I looked at my husband and we just smiled at each other. I whispered to him, ‘So fast…that was the longest night of my life!” We moved back and forth between the two of them. And they were so happy to see each other, as well as us. They hadn’t seen each other since the screaming inside the car as it flipped over. They touched hands and smiled at each other, told each other that they loved each other, and was glad the other was ok. And they also said to each other, “I’m sorry.” “No, I’m sorry.” And I said “Nobody’s sorry, nobody’s to blame. We’re just glad you two are ok.” The doctors and nurses tended to their painful injuries, crying and a little screaming, a broken arm, a big hole on the top of the knee, a head wound that was stapled, bruised lungs, concussion, dirt, gravel and grasses in their hair and embedded in their skin, blood-bruised eyes.
But they were alive.
We wouldn’t see the car until the next day- thankfully we saw them first. Everyone said they should have died in that accident, that people die every day on that stretch of road. The night before, as we drove, we saw tires littering both sides of the freeway, including the center divide. More than we’ve ever seen anywhere else- ever. And lots of amputations for some reason, too, from accidents that happen there. Before we got to the hospital, my son said he kept hearing the doctors telling different people that they were going to have to get an arm, or a leg, or a hand amputated. He wondered, did HE have to get something amputated? Did his girlfriend have to get something amputated- were they talking to HER? But they weren’t.
You can see the helicopter on top of the hospital there. He later said that didn’t even remember that $12,000 helicopter ride.
The next afternoon, we had to drive out to the tow yard to get their things out of the car. Well, the things that didn’t fly out as they flipped around. The tow yard was an hour and a half from the hospital! That’s how desolate the area is. It was 115 degrees outside. All businesses were closed. Not one person was outside. We didn’t even see any animals. Long country road and finally, a tiny town. We pulled in and the man drove us a few minutes away to the yard where our car was. He talked gently to us, very kind. And said that his son-in-law had also died on that stretch of road. And my husband said, “Oh. They didn’t die. They’re at the hospital.” The man almost fell over. He said his son-in-law’s car was no where near what my son’s car looked like. He said it was shocking that they’re still alive. And we knew that but it was scary to hear person after person telling us that.
The car. The kids. 18 years old and 22 years old.
A few days later when my son was finally released we started the several hour car ride home. They cried on and off as they sat in the car, how fast it seemed we were going, and how close they felt the other cars were to us. Finally, we told them to close their eyes and try to relax. We finally made it home, where the doctor appointments, surgeries and multiple casts then began.
And here he is! The man whose voice kept me sane, kept me calm. Someday we will meet. And for me, it’ll be like I’ve known him forever, like I’m seeing an old friend again. We have talked on the phone, chatted on Facebook and texted. He’s the best. He was there for me on one of the worst nights of my life and I will always be thankful for him!
Well, this blog post went on M U C H longer than I anticipated! Once I started reliving the night, I couldn’t stop typing. That was 8.5 years ago. I remember it silently every year on the anniversary. Several times he has been out on the road again as the date passes. Sometimes I look at the album I made about it. But my son never has. And I don’t expect him to. I made it for our family. I needed to document that ‘not-so-great event’ and if you have one of those, document yours as well. It doesn’t have to be on display for everyone to see. It can be just for you.
I will now pack up this album and send it to my friend in Georgia. He’s not even from California! He was here visiting his parents and they went to Los Angeles for some fun. God has a way of putting us where we need to be. And for that I am thankful.