Tonight we thought we were going to see a Shakespeare play. Instead, we got to witness the unfolding of an amazing drama in which God displayed His awesome providence before our very eyes! I’d better start at the beginning…
Today was the long-anticipated day when we were to go see the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s presentation of “Love’s Labor Lost” with some friends. I’m a HUGE fan of Shakespeare, and the NSF is something of an annual tradition for me. I went as a college freshman in 1999 (my first and only activity during my short tenure in the TTU Honors Program), and I think I’ve only missed one year since then (last year).
At about 3:30 this afternoon we loaded the car to head west. We planned to arrive early to enjoy a picnic and some frisbee in Centennial Park. My friend Jason Cohoon rode shotgun; his wife Gena rode in back with Laurie and Nate.
About 25 miles into the trip, barely making 70 mph in the fast lane on a congested Labor Day, traffic suddenly and inexplicably slowed to a crawl. I rode the brakes pretty hard, and just managed to avoid hitting the car in front of us, coming to a complete stop with about two feet to spare. As usual in such circumstances, I checked the rear-view mirror to make sure folks behind us were stopping too, but didn’t like what I saw: a white Chrysler 300 with no apparent intention of slowing down.
My instinct was to spin around to shout a warning (not that it would have done any good), but didn’t get a word out before the impact. Thankfully, the driver of the Chrysler swerved at the last instant… I don’t want to think about what would have happened if he hadn’t. After taking a sizable chunk out of the right-rear corner of my car, the Chrysler spun around two or three times, clipped a third vehicle, and crashed head-on into a rock wall on the other side of the road.
Isn’t it funny what goes through our heads at times like these? My first three thoughts after the impact were: (1) I just filled up the gas tank! There’s $30 down the drain…; (2) Make sure everyone’s okay and pull off into the median; and (3) The gas tank is in the right-rear quarter of the car, and I smell something burning! Get everyone out quickly!
The burning smell ended up being nothing but tire rubber and brake pads, but I was thankful to see everyone safe and sound far from the vehicle and other Interstate traffic. Once I made sure we were all healthy and whole, it was a relief to see the driver of the Chrysler getting out of his car on the far shoulder, about 200 feet up the road.
I don’t know what had caused the initial traffic lockup that caused our accident, but it had cleared up almost immediately after the wreck. Unfortunately, we were being thoroughly rubber-necked (which causes in one a feeling which might be described as being “rubber-naked”), which caused traffic to back up for several miles. Because of all the bridges over the many forks of the Caney Forks River, this meant that emergency vehicles couldn’t use much of the shoulder and had to get stuck in traffic as well. It took a solid 20 minutes before a State Trooper arrived on the scene.
It shouldn’t be overlooked that not everyone was rubber-necking. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of motorists who pulled off to see if we needed help. One man asked if we had plenty of water, which we did thanks to the picnic we’d packed for the park. We also had a large blanket and lots of food, so we found a shady spot near the car to get comfortable, got out some of Nate’s toys and books, and he had himself a good-old time looking back at the rubberneckers!
By the time the trooper finally arrived, Gena — who is 23 weeks pregnant — was starting to have some pretty serious pain, so he radioed her an ambulance before going to check on the other two drivers involved in the accident. At this point I’ll skip ahead in the story briefly to report that she and baby Joshua are both fine! She was thoroughly examined at the hospital, and there is no reason to expect that there will be any complications with the baby… though Gena’s likely to have a sore back for a while. She was sitting in the corner of the car where the impact happened, and judging by the crease in that seat, it looks like part of the wheel well probably caught her pretty good.
Now back to the play-by-play. Through everything that had happened to this point, we had been exceedingly thankful for God’s protection. At no time did anyone (even the expecting parents) ever panic or worry that God was not in control. We all understood that He is sovereign, and that things happen for a reason. Little did we know, though, just how perfectly He had orchestrated everything this afternoon!
While the Trooper was up the road filling out the accident report with the other drivers, another vehicle pulled off the side of the road, and the driver jumped out and began running toward the trooper and yelling. I could see others helping someone out of the back of the vehicle, so I grabbed some of our water and went to see if there was anything I could do to help.
A teenage boy was having an asthma attack. He was shaking violently and couldn’t breathe. He had gone to the lake with some family friends, and didn’t have his inhaler with him. Here’s where the story gets REALLY good!
Would you believe that the driver of the third vehicle — the one clipped as the Chrysler spun out of control — was a respiratory therapist? She was on her way to work, and had all her gear with her. She was able to get the boy an inhaler and some medicine, and stabilize him until the ambulance (which was already en route for Gena) arrived. We could see and hear the ambulance (which nearly wrecked on the way to us) long before it was able to get through the traffic to where we were. While we waited, I was able to pray with the boy, his siblings, his mother (via telephone), the family friends, the therapist, and the trooper (all of whom are Christians). It was a pretty powerful moment, and the Holy Spirit calmed the boy’s anxiety.
Paramedics from that first ambulance were able to help both the boy and Gena while a second ambulance was dispatched. Both were taken to the hospital, and both are going to be just fine. But how cool is that! God is good, ALL THE TIME!!!
After that, the rest of the details just seem mundane, but I’ll give them anyway. Our car is probably totaled. We’ll find out for sure tomorrow. From the outside, it really doesn’t look all that bad, but the damage to the frame is pretty severe. We have an awesome insurance agent, and an even more awesome God, so I have no doubt we’ll be well cared for. We’ll pick up a rental car in the morning, and see what happens from there.
Cars are just stuff. We happened to like that car, but we can replace it. Lives can’t be replaced!
P.S. – Some might ask: Did God actually cause this accident? I’m not sure the answer matters that much, but I absolutely believe that He used the circumstances to bless an awful lot of people today. Would a Shakespeare play have brought our family closer together with the Cohoons and the Elys (who were going to meet us in Nashville and instead picked us up on the side of the road) than this adventure? Not a chance. Would that boy have gotten medicine from a hospital or paramedic as quickly as he did from that therapist if he’d had the asthma attack on the Interstate without being backed up in traffic at that exact moment and in those exact circumstances? We can never know for certain, but in that location, help is pretty far away in any direction. God is in the details, my friends!
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28