June 16, 2015, was just a “normal” day for us. I brought my boys (I had two at the time: Jackson was two, and Taylor was five months) to my parents house. We went to visit and say goodbye to my sister, Mary, and my mom. They were both going away for a week and get emotional at the thought of being away from their nephews / grandsons for any period of time.
I was feeling exceptionally overwhelmed that day. Being a young mom of small babies has been equal parts joy, frustration, and exhaustion. I love my boys with all my heart and acknowledge that they are a blessing straight from God… but the job is hard. Very hard. And it is easy to get bogged down in the routine instead of acknowledging the fact that you are CHOSEN by God to raise them.
My 2-year-old, Jackson, is amazing. He is smart, funny, lively, extremely active, and intense. His intensity often comes across through his demands and tantrums, but, that’s also a part of being two. Either way, it can be grating on your nerves.
I remember saying to my mom that afternoon, “I just need more joy. I am exhausted and I want my joy back.” I just wanted a break. A little vacation to regroup.
Around 4:35 we said our goodbyes and headed home. We drove the same way we do time and time again. We were on the road not even 10 minutes when I started to hear strange noises. It was a flapping noise. I kept saying, “What is that? Is that coming from us?” I rolled down my window and heard the noise louder and figured we must have had a flat tire. I had never had one before so wasn’t sure exactly what to do or what it sounded like. I decided I would try and get off at the next exit since I was nervous to pull over on a highway with my two babies in tow. However, I didn’t even get the chance.
All of a sudden my steering wheel started to jolt. I tried to control it, but there was no hope. My back left tire had blown out. We were in the far right lane but we started to drift sharply left – into traffic. I don’t remember this, but I must have turned the wheel to the right because we started flipping off the highway and rolling towards the guardrail. We were told we flipped five times. It felt like five hours.
Although I don’t remember everything that was happening (other than the rolling and screaming) I do remember thinking several things:
“We are all going to die. Me and my babies are going to die.”
When I realized I was still conscious and the rolling was stopping I immediately thought: “I’m alive and my babies are dead. I’m going to have to live life without my two precious babies.”
When the rolling stopped and I looked back, I saw and heard the most beautiful thing in the world. I saw both of my boys completely alert and conscious. Jackson was even crying for me. There was no blood in sight.
I didn’t know if they were completely injury free, but I knew they were okay for now.
I noticed my hand was bloody, but I didn’t care. I wondered if I had hurt my head, but I also knew it hadn’t hit anything. My neck flopped from side to side so I was certain I had gotten pretty bad whiplash, but I definitely couldn’t remember ever hitting my head, thank God.
I took off my seatbelt and reached for Taylor who was secured above me. The car landed on the driver’s side. That meant Jackson and I were pinned against the ground and Taylor’s car seat, behind the passenger’s seat, was suspended up in the air. I reached up and unhooked him and he still seemed fine. He was whimpering, but that was it. I couldn’t see any injuries.
I wasn’t sure what to do next because the windshield was completely shattered and there was glass everywhere. I didn’t know how to get myself and Taylor out, let alone reach Jackson who was stuck in the back.
Seconds later, there were three people talking to me through the windshield. Two men had a gigantic wrench and they wanted to completely bust through the shattered windshield and get us out. I was grateful for help, but I did not like this plan as I was holding my 5-month-old and had nowhere safe to put him. Another man, Doug Lynch, was talking to us as well. Before we even had time to think of a plan, police officer Erny came to our rescue. He had me unlock the door and he opened it. I handed Taylor out the open passenger side door above me. Doug held on to him for awhile.
Officer Erny then lifted me out and kept saying how lucky I was. Jackson was still trapped in the back. It was harder to get him out since he was strapped in his large carseat and we landed on the side that trapped his door from opening. He also had a 6-foot folding table next to him.
This is the other miracle within a miracle. This table was very heavy. I had bought it with my mom at Costco a couple weeks before the accident. Before I left that day, we finally crammed it into my tiny car so I could transport it home. It was lying behind the driver and passenger seat at Jackson’s feet and the front of Taylor’s carseat. The fact that it didn’t injure anybody was a gift from God.
After I was safely out I immediately called my mom to come help us. Since I was so close to her house I knew she would get there the fastest. She didn’t answer so I called my sister, who I scared half to death, but she gave the phone to my mom and they said they were coming right away.
Then I called Andrew. His job is to train new hires in New York City and is very hard to get a hold of when he is in a training session. He didn’t answer so I called again and he knew it must have been an emergency. He answered and I told him we had been in a major car accident, and the car had flipped, but that we seemed to be okay. He told me he would get on a train immediately and meet us at the ER.
Before my mom arrived several other strangers came to our rescue as well. An EMT who was off duty, but was driving by, got out to help. He and some firefighters had gotten Jackson out of the trunk. They must have taken out my gigantic double stroller and put the seat down in order to pull him out. They carried him out in his carseat to ensure that if he was injured he at least stayed still, and so he wouldn’t try and run down a busy highway. Poor Jackson was so confused and overcome with fear he just cried and cried. He was just so shocked from the accident and then he was by himself while I called people and tended to Taylor. I was just thankful he was crying and alert.
The EMT that helped him out checked him for injuries and brought some washcloths out to support his neck just in case. He also opened some gauze packets to entertain him.
We waited for an ambulance and everything was a complete blur. My head was literally spinning with the events that just happened. Doug kept telling me that God had saved us and had huge plans for us. I couldn’t have agreed more and was so thankful for his encouragement. I told him how I had been listening to Star 99.1, a local Christian radio station.
Another officer bandaged up my cut hand and I noticed he was shaking. I asked him if it was him or me and he said it was him because he was so hot.
My mom, sister, and brother, Sam, arrived. They hugged me and we were all crying. It was such a mix of emotions: fear – but thankfulness and joy that we were alive.
Our family friend, Michelle Ackerman, was with my mom so she had driven my mom and sister to us. Michelle sprung into action and helped tremendously. She held on to Taylor and talked to Jackson. When the ambulance arrived she made sure they took us to Morristown Memorial Hospital. She knew they have a pediatric ER and that the babies would be in the best care there. She also grabbed as much of our belongings from our car and brought them to her house until we could get them at a later time.
My mom and the boys and I piled into the ambulance. The boys were examined for injuries. Both seemed to check out fine. Jackson had minor abrasions from his carseat. They were concerned that Taylor wasn’t crying and was acting lethargic. It made me worry at first, but then I told them that this might be the calmest baby on Earth. Once he started smiling and then subsequently crying because he was hungry, everyone felt much better. They both cried the whole ride to the hospital. The EMT told me that was such a good sign because it meant they were alert and aware and probably didn’t sustain any head injuries or the like. After a major car accident the carseats are rendered useless due to impact. Jackson sat in a restraint inside the ambulance, but Taylor had to be restrained in the stretcher. It was too cute and brought some levity to the situation.
Speaking of those carseats — this accident has opened my eyes to the importance of carseat and seatbelt safety. I am so thankful we were strapped in properly and securely!
My brother, Andy, lives in Morristown and was waiting for us at the ER entrance. It was such a relief for both him and us to see each other. We all got checked in and brought to our room. Our family members started piling in. My childhood best friend, Christine, also lived nearby and came to support us. I was so thankful to be surrounded and supported by both of our families. Everyone kept saying how it turned from the worst day ever to the best day ever.
The whole time at the scene, in the ambulance, and in the ER, my mind was running a mile a minute. I was partially in shock and partially just didn’t know how to make sense of everything that happened. I was so thankful I believed in God – but I think if i hadn’t, this miraculous event would have made a believer out of me.
The boys got checked out first and were discharged right away. I got a chest X-ray and three stitches in my hand. I also had some cuts and abrasions on my hand cleaned up.
There is one moment I don’t ever want to forget…
I went to the bathroom in the ER and was by myself for the first time since the accident took place. I sat down and started to cry out to God. I wasn’t asking where He was in all of this… because I knew for certain His hand guided us to safety. It was more of a cry for His presence in that very moment; to take my thoughts and comfort me. And He did. He gave me an image I want to etch in my mind forever.
I saw Jesus there with me in the bathroom… He was kneeling before me at MY feet and He had His head in MY lap. And He wept WITH me. In that moment I knew He didn’t make this accident happen to us. BUT I know He is GOD and He can give and take away. He can allow things to happen and He can prevent things from happening. He works in mysterious ways and we will never have all the answers to the way He works. But He is GOD and in that moment I knew that He was taking something awful and terrifying that happened, and He was making us new through it. He was showing us His presence, He was blessing us with a miracle and He was giving us the opportunity to glorify Him for His goodness. He was showing us He is faithful in His promises in a way that I had never seen before. He was and is WITH us in every way.
It’s funny because I had prayed days before for Him to, “Break me and build me back up.” I wanted to feel His presence in a more tangible way. Bingo.
I told Andrew that very night, “I don’t know why bad things happen but I know why we are okay.” I can say without a doubt that God was with us and saved us. I am so grateful for His grace and mercy.
As I said before, being a mom to young boys is a rollercoaster of emotions. I have never been so tired and worn out. I also have never had my heart overflow so much. This accident came at a time where I was feeling particularly overwhelmed. And you know what? I’m not sorry it happened. It threw things into perspective immediately for me. That accident could have ended a different way. In ways I don’t even want to imagine. But it didn’t. God has shown us grace and power and suddenly motherhood isn’t as hard. I got the joy back that I was looking for. And as someone who is often prone to worry, and lacking in trust… I am trusting God in a way that I never have before.
I look at those boys and I see the work of the Lord and have nothing but thankfulness. I am still challenged by them on a daily basis, but I know I am not alone in this journey. The joy is there and I am choosing to take it. I pray that I am never the same again.
My dad sent me these verses the very next day:
“For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways, they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)
“Because He loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue Him, for He acknowledges my name.” (Psalm 91:14-16)
“But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice.” (Psalm 5:11)
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)