It was just before Christmas 2016. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. My wife, Lorrie, and I were returning from Atlanta where we had spent a week at our condo, visiting children, grandchildren, and exploring new restaurants. We had turned off of I-77 at the Hillsville, Virginia exit and were proceeding east on Hwy 58 in our Range Rover. We were on the old two-lane section before it reached the new four-lane section. She was driving, and I had just remarked to her that we would be home in about fifteen minutes, and I was glad of it. The drive from Atlanta was long, and it would be good to be home again.
Then, we saw the SUV come around the curve ahead. It was slightly across the centerline into our lane. At first, we were not concerned because that often happens, but the trespassing vehicle always returns to its side of the road before it passes by. Even so, Lorrie steered over to the right edge of our lane. Then to our horror, we watched the SUV continue to further encroach diagonally into our lane. Lorrie steered to the right, off of the pavement as far as possible, but we were on the edge of a precipice. The drop was at least several hundred feet and there was no guardrail. The SUV kept coming for us like a terminator machine. There was nothing we could do. We had to swerve right and drive off of the cliff, or we had to take the hit. We took the hit.
The impact was stunning. Both vehicles were traveling at about fifty miles per hour and neither had slowed before the collision. All the Range Rover air bags exploded. Black smoke filled the interior of the car. The Range Rover was knocked over onto its passenger side and was sliding. I couldn’t see anything. I was lying with my right side against the passenger side door, as I heard the screech of the metal on the pavement, felt the vehicle sliding, and waited for the sensation of falling over the cliff. I realized that the air bags had already deployed and when, after a long drop, we hit a rock outcrop or a tree, there would be nothing to protect us.
The Range Rover stopped sliding. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t understand what had happened. Gradually I could see as the black smoke escaped through some breaks in the glass. I saw Lorrie above me hanging unconscious in her seat belt, her body pressed against the armrest and console that separated us. Because of the black smoke and tank full of gasoline, I was worried that even though we had, by some miracle, not been knocked over the cliff, we might still be killed by burning to death when the gas tank exploded.
I yelled “Lorrie, Lorrie, Lorrie,” as loudly as I could.
Finally she responded. “What?”
I yelled, “Get out of the car. Get out of the car.”
“But if I release my seat belt, I will fall on you.”
“Try to open your window, and then hold on to the ledge as you release your seat belt,” I said.
“OK. Got it. Now what?” she replied.
“Pull yourself up through the window, jump down to the ground, and then get away from the car.”
Lorrie has been an athlete all of her life and works out several hours every day. She easily got out of the car through the window and jumped to the ground. But then to my horror, she immediately reappeared just outside the broken windshield in front of my face.
“Get away from the car,” I screamed.
“But I want to help you.” she replied.
“If you want to help me, then get away from the car,” I yelled as forcefully as I could.
Frantically, I released my seat belt and forced my way up until I was sitting on the ledge of the open window of the driver’s side. My back was to the road and I no longer had the strength or balance to get up, turn around, and jump to the ground. By that time, several cars and pickup trucks had stopped. Two strong men came up to the car and realizing the problem said, “Just fall back and we will catch you.”
Right, I thought. I will land on my head and break my neck. But if I stay in the car, I will burn to death when the gas tank explodes. “OK. Here I come.” I closed my eyes, leaned back, and fell out of the window.
They caught me. No part of my body ever hit the ground. They stood me on my feet and let me go but grabbed hold of me again, when my shaky legs refused to support me. I was not hurt, just shaken up.
But Lorrie was hurt. She had a broken finger and was bleeding from several scrapes and cuts. She had bruised ribs and might have suffered a concussion. An ambulance appeared and took her to the hospital. I followed, driven by a Good Samaritan.
When I got to the hospital, Lorrie had already been taken to the back. I refused medical attention because I didn’t feel like I had any injuries. However, I was coughing, coughing, coughing. An elderly woman in the waiting room addressed me.
“Since you have the croup so bad, do you think you should be in the waiting room with all of these healthy people?
I responded, “Madam, I do not have the croup. I was just in a near fatal car accident and my condition of congestive heart failure has been aggravated by breathing a lot of black smoke from the exploded air bags.”
“Oh good.” she replied.
Lorrie and I eventually got home but not until well after dark. Of course, the Range Rover was totaled. The next day, I went with a friend and salvaged all our belongings. When I got home, Lorrie asked if I thought we should ask him to take us to Mt. Airy to rent a car. She said she was sure the insurance company would pay for it. My response was “You can’t rent a Range Rover and I don’t want to drive anything else.” Five days later, I had purchased and was driving a new Range Rover.
But then I got to thinking. How exactly did we escape certain death? I went to the cupboard and got out two soup cans of the same size. I held them on the edge of the kitchen counter and moved then toward each other on a collision course. The can on the edge when hit nearly head on was driven over the edge. When hit in the center of the driver’s side or on the rear wheel of the driver’s side, it was driven over the edge. But the can on the edge when hit on the front wheel of the driver’s side spun its back around up onto the counter.
When the Range Rover had stopped sliding it was turned over onto its passenger side, but it was not on the edge of the cliff. It was exactly in the middle of its paved lane of travel. It had been struck on the front wheel of the driver’s side so severely that the entire wheel had been ripped from the axel.
Just the other day I said to my wife “I don’t remember a minute of the drive from Atlanta up until the collision, but I remember every second of the minutes from first realizing the SUV would hit us, until I was on my way to the hospital. Those memories are still clear in my mind, and I think they always will be. That is a yesterday that I will never forget. That Range Rover saved our lives.”
“You are wrong,” she corrected me as she lovingly fingered the gold medallion she wore around her neck on a gold chain. “The Archangel Michael saved us.”
The mind is constantly dwelling in three periods of time: the past, the present, and the future. The amount of time spent in contemplation of each differs with each person. The point is that today will become your yesterday. Today will become your past and will go with you into your future. Present time should be used to create memorable past time that will go with you into future time. So why not do something significant today?
And remember…always travel with an Archangel.