Front Page News for All the Wrong Reasons

Less than three years after nearly getting creamed by a guy texting while driving on the Interstate, I was involved in another traffic accident. This time, thankfully, I was in the car alone, without my kids or my pregnant wife. And once again, the Lord protected me from what easily could have been serious injury.

Unfortunately, the driver of the other vehicle was injured. I don’t know the severity of her injuries, but it looked bad as they pulled her from the vehicle. And at age 91, her injuries aren’t likely to heal quickly. It has really shaken me up. The accident was no fault of mine, but I still feel terrible that it happened. I’ve been praying for her all day.

The accident occurred at the corner of Willow Avenue and Stevens Street, an intersection which seems to feature fender benders on a weekly basis. After crossing it multiple times every day for the last 5+ years, I guess I was due.

For those who’ve asked what happened, here’s the story:

I was sitting at the red light next to the Sakura Japanese restaurant, heading in to work at the church. A truck was in the left turn lane, blocking my view of northbound traffic on Willow. When the light turned green, both of us starting pulling forward into the intersection. The driver of the truck was able to see that an oncoming car was not going to stop; I could not see it. The driver of the truck stopped suddenly, and the next thing I knew, a streak of color flashed across my windshield, and I saw a car spinning through the intersection and off the road into the deep drainage ditch that runs along the side of Willow in front of Sakura and El Tapatio.

The light had been changed for quite some time; long enough for me to have gotten up the hill and out into Willow. While I don’t know for certain what happened, I suspect that the driver of the Impala probably inadvertently hit the gas pedal instead of her brake (which is the same thing that happened recently when another elderly driver parked her vehicle in the O’Charley’s waiting area). Nonagenarians aren’t known for speeding, and judging by the distance she skidded while spinning, it seemed she was going faster than the legal limit.

Once I got over the initial shock, my first thought was that the car had flipped over going into the ditch, or had slammed into the culvert. It’s been raining, and the water level was high. Had the car flipped, the driver and her husband would likely have drowned. Thankfully, they landed right-side-up. I snapped a few pictures, after watching our local emergency crews perform an amazing rescue:

View from the restaurant side of the ditch. The car had spun completely around, and is facing the direction from which it had been coming.

View from the Willow Avenue side of the ditch.

View from the Willow Avenue side of the ditch.

Photo by Buddy Pearson of the Herald-Citizen

Photo by Buddy Pearson of the Herald-Citizen

As you can see, this wasn’t exactly the typical fender bender! It even merited prominent display on the front page, sharing the space with a beer thief and a guy who threatened to kill some school kids. You can read the Herald-Citizen write-up about the accident here.

Not exactly the notoriety I was hoping to achieve.

Not exactly the notoriety I was hoping to achieve.

Just as in our previous accident (see above link for that story), God’s hand was evident in many ways during this ordeal. Were I to believe in coincidences, it would have been quite the “coincidence” that a man who was stopped at the red light “just happened” to be a first responder. By the time I pulled my car out of the intersection and ran to check on the other driver, he was already down in the ditch with his kit, pounding on the window and telling the driver and her husband not to move.

And he wasn’t even the first person down there. Within moments of the accident, at least a half-dozen bystanders had climbed down the embankment to see if they could offer any assistance to the elderly couple trapped in the vehicle. It was inspiring to see so many people so concerned for the welfare of their fellow man!

The fire fighters and paramedics (including a few SSBC members and School of Performing Arts parents) who responded were also amazing. They made the extraction of an injured woman from a car filling up with nasty water look easy, and had her safely up the steep ascent in no time. I hope to never require similar assistance, but am glad to know that we have such professionals serving our community.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing of all was the number of people who knelt to pray for the other driver, and who asked to pray with me. Cookeville has its faults, for sure, but on the whole, this is a pretty incredible place to live.

Miraculously, the driver’s husband walked away without a scratch. As the newspaper said, it was a wild ride!

Next to injuries to people, the damage to vehicles seems unimportant. Yet I am thankful that, while my car suffered some damage and will have to spend some time in the shop, it is still drivable and will allow me to go to work without leaving my fit-to-burst wife stranded at home without a vehicle.

Thanks to all who have checked in on me in the last couple days. I appreciate your concern, and love you all! Please join me in praising God for his glorious providence, and forgive me if I’ve seemed distracted the last couple days!

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