Donna Smaldone
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Thursday / January 26 / 2012

I remember everything except the actual crash – part II

I remember everything except the actual crash. Seconds afterward, my eyes shot open and my senses came to life. All except sight. I was blind.

Trying frantically to look around the car, I saw nothing. They say when you lose one sense, all others become more refined. I found this to be true.

My ears took in the crisp sounds of the roaring fire with an occasional firework-like pop. The smoke from the fire penetrated my nose as if it would never rescind. And the pain —

the pain was excruciating.

My right hip was broken, my chin severely slashed. I had a massive concussion and my right leg was on fire. Worst of all, I was trapped. My leg, wedged somewhere beneath the engine, the console, and the floor.

Petrified to the point of feeling frozen while on fire, I began to scream, “HELP!,” as much as my lungs would permit. In the seat directly behind me, Denise heard my cries. Leaping out of the car and quickly comprehending the life-threatening danger, she rushed to my door trying to open it, beseeching me to get out.

Looking at her with deadened eyes, I asked –as I always did in a dream- “Am I dreaming?

“No!,” she retorted. This was the one and only time the answer wasn’t in the affirmative. This would be the final time I’d ever ask that question.

Just like that, life was changed forever. Everything rushed from my head to my feet. An abrupt rush came over me as if I had been violently flushed. Never before and never again have I felt anything like it. In that moment, I was certain I was going to die.

I’ve heard that your life will flash before your eyes when you’re about to die and that is precisely what happened to me.

I saw a full-color, video slideshow of my childhood that included playing “splashy-splashy” in the Virginia Beach ocean with my Daddy long before my Momma and brother Mark had gotten out of bed.

Walking to the ‘crooked tree’ near David and Julie’s house, remembering the time we had Karen in her baby stroller and ran over an underground bees nest — inciting a sort of bee riot. In a panic, Karen’s stroller had been left near the bees whilst everyone fled, so I ran up and strolled her away on a ride like she’d never experienced. Everyone got stung that day, but me.

I saw train chases, birthday cakes, and Ruffles eating Thanksgiving pies.

“Unbuckle your seatbelt,” Denise commanded with desperate authority, snapping me back to reality. As I reached for the latch, I could tell my seatbelt was already off. How? How could that be? To this day, I’m uncertain. Perhaps the fire.

Denise grabbed beneath both my armpits and pulled. Hard. I shrieked out in pain as my leg remained lodged — and burning. I was trapped.

Refusing to concede, she pulled harder.

Denise saved my life. She didn’t have to put her 16-year-old self at such risk, approaching a burning car to free her trapped friend. But she did. She didn’t even give it a second thought. And I’m grateful.

[You can read “I remember everything except the actual crash” here…]

10 responses to “I remember everything except the actual crash – part II”

  1. Robbi Philips says:

    Hi Donna,

    I just wanted to tell you that you are one of the bravest people I know. Thanks for sharing this with us. I pray that God will continue to heal you completely. He loves you so much.

  2. Brenda says:

    Donna…..you have so much courage to post your memories of this dreadful accident but I thank you too….so many details I never knew and wondered about….you’ve answered them….not that I needed them….but it helps me to keep the right perspective of the here and now….I know it is not easy but I commend your willingness to be so transparent and open….it helps us all. Thank you.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I appreciate you sharing that with me, Brenda. Thank you so much. It’s true it’s a very vulnerable place to be, but it’s also one filled with healing — and as I’ve come to learn… not just for me.

      Love,
      Donna

  3. Julie says:

    Hard to comment… because “I have a cold!” Love you so much!! Thanks for sharing.

    Love, Julie

  4. Diana says:

    You’re courage in sharing is so inspiring. XOXO

  5. John M says:

    I also echo what courage you continually show in your writing and your sharing! May God bless you!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Your comment means a lot to me, Mr. Manley. It has been such a new (positive) process of healing I’ve immersed myself in since returning back “home”. The feedback I receive from my readers has been such an encouragement, helping to mold and shape my ability (and desire!) to share such raw, honest stuff. And YOU are part of the force that helped so many of us grow into amazing adults (notice I didn’t say “grown-ups”!)

      Love,
      Donna

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