Saturday, January 31, 2009
Jeff and I started dating sometime around January 13, 2004. So, on this day, five years ago, January 31, 2004, we decided to take a day trip. From what I remember, I had class that morning and then that afternoon we decided to head out to St. Augustine. It’s one of my favorite cities in Florida to visit and Jeff had never been there.
We went for a walk around the city (ie. the oldest jail and all of those shops), went down to walk around at the beach and then headed out to go to dinner. We stopped at Chili’s and had some food. (Please remember, we were 18 and 19 at the time, so NO, there wasn’t any drinking.)
After dinner, we headed back home. Less than 5 minutes of being in the car, a women made a left turn on a red light. Right in front of us. I slammed on the brakes tried to avoid her, but as the saying goes, it all happened so quickly. Jeff was singing in the passenger side of the car and the next thing I remember is him hitting the windshield and then his head was on my right shoulder. We t-boned the car that made the turn and hit the passenger side. Neither of us were wearing a seatbelt and that is something I NEVER did. I always had my seatbelt on, and for that split second, I did not. Thankfully, I had an airbag. Yet, Jeff did not.
From what I remember after the impact and after talking to people that were there, my car spun and hit another car that was at the red light on the right side road. I remember thinking and I believe saying, “Just get out of the car. It might explode.” No idea why I would think it would explode, but that’s one detail that I quite remember. It didn’t register at the time, but my car was kinda still in the middle of the intersection. I don’t remember watching out for oncoming traffic, I just remember running over to the side of the road nearest a gas station and yelling that I needed to call 911 and then call my parents. A man had thankfully already called 911 and then let me borrow his phone to call my parents. They were at the drive-in, which means that my mom’s phone should have been off. But it was not. So, they made the drive from Ocala to St. Augustine.
The paramedics checked Jeff out and I remember hearing that they were grateful that he didn’t lose conciousness because that would have made it even worse. They rushed him off to the hospital. Once they got to the hospital in St. Augustine, he then got air lifted to Shands hospital in Jacksonville. The reason: St. Augustine doesn’t have a trauma center. Shocking news for me to hear when I’m sitting in a convience store in St. Augustine talking to the owner of the vehicle that got hit at the red light, waiting for my parents to arrive.
Once my parents picked me up, we got the stuff that was left in my car. I don’t remember the condition of the car, but apprently it was classified as totaled. The three of us headed to Jacksonville, it was the longest/quickest drive of my life. We arrived, the hospital did some x-rays on my knees and I got the news that as I get older, my knees are going to hurt more — from slamming on the brakes. After that, the nurses said they were still stitching up Jeff’s face.
I was given some pain medicine and it put me right to sleep, sitting in the little side room off of the emergency room area. I was woken up and we went in to see Jeff. He was pretty tore up and quite drugged up as well, I do believe. We stayed with him for a bit and then went to get a hotel room. Slept a few hours, went to a car dealship, picked out a car, went and picked up Jeff and went to finish purchasing the car and then Jeff and headed back to Orlando. Got stuck in traffic and had a looooong drive home.
Jeff had to take a month off of school, due to his scars needing time to heal, his nose needing time to fix itself and the windshield glass to work it’s way our of his eye.
It’s amazing what one night, one mistake that someone else makes, can do to your life. Not only did it make Jeff and I really close, knowing that we could make it through this. We also found out that we had a great support system. Plus, we’ve been very fortunate these past 5 years since the accident — Jeff didn’t have to have any surgery what so ever, we bought a house, and had some major moments happen. Of course, some were good and some were bad. And one, well, one we’re still trying to figure out.
The other car contained an older couple. The woman was driving — she told the police that she had been turning around to get something out of the backseat. (I could scream every time I think about that) and the man was in the passenger side. It took everyone months to tell me the following, the man had had a bad heart and once they got him to the hospital he passed. It’s one of the roughest things to think about. Even though it was not my fault, she turned in front of me, but I was driving a car that killed a man. Had she had not been turning around to get God knows what, her husband may still be alive and none of this would have happened.
The only reason I put the last part was because if just ONE person reads this and that ONE person is a bit more careful when driving and wears their seatbelt, that will make me a very happy person. I don’t care if you’re going a half a mile down the road, PLEASE wear your seatbelt.
**Pictures: Jeff in Feb. 2004, a couple of days later and Jeff today, Jan. 31, 09, 5 years later**