Atlanta’s I-285 is like any other interstate beltway around a large urban area; traffic is either creeping along at a snail’s pace or zooming along faster than a cheetah riding on the back of a sailfish. On a sultry summer morning in 1987 I was zooming along around 70 mph on my way to a job interview when the upset stomach that had been bothering me all morning suddenly kicked into high gear. Figuring it would be better to go back home and call for a rescheduling than to vomit all over the interviewer, I took an exit, curled beneath the interstate and got back on it, heading in the direction from whence I came. Still hitting that 70 mph threshold, I was coming up on an 18 wheeler when I suddenly got a really weird feeling. I can’t accurately describe exactly what I felt, but there was a definitely unpleasant vibe. I should have believed in such things more.
I decided to speed past the 18 wheeler not consciously because I felt weird about it, but perhaps subconsciously. Consciously I sped up because my stomach was feeling worse and I desperately wanted to get home. I was going about 75 mph and was nearly past him when the unthinkable happened. Without any warning, the driver of the 18 wheeler had decided to get into my lane, apparently unaware or not caring that I was there. I’m inclined to believe it was the latter in light of what took place over the next few seconds. It all happened in a kind of slow motion and, I don’t mind admitting, was the most frightening moment of my life to the point and for some years later. My little Toyota Corolla began shaking and shuddering as the semi made contact with the driver’s side. In a matter of seconds, it had turned me around so that my car was now sideways against the grille of the massive machine. And then, mercifully, instead of flipping me over and literally running me over, my Toyota whipped to the right. What I saw were cars coming toward me at 70 to 80 mph as my car was now facing the opposite direction. That particular section of I-285 at that time was made up of four lanes. That I managed to speed across all three lanes and come to crash against the walled divider is nothing less than a miracle of random timing. The same accident could happen another 99 times without the other three lanes being as devoid of vehicles.
Do you believe in miracles? My wife does. She has been insistent that divine intervention took place that day. In the first place, I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. In the second place, how many people take a ride on the front of an 18 wheeler and don’t flip over? In the third place, how often are three lanes of traffic on I-285 free of traffic enough to allow a car to fly across them, facing the opposite direction, without hitting another vehicle?
It was a hit and run. I walked out of my totaled Toyota and saw there were some 18-wheelers parked on the shoulder across the way. I waited for a lull in traffic and ran across to them, intent on murder. It turned out they had pulled over to make sure I was all right, having witness the accident, but not aware of who had been responsible. One of the drivers who had stopped was even breaking the law because he was carrying hazardous material and wasn’t supposed to stop. I never knew who ran over me. It was even suggested that the driver responsible might not have even been aware; he might never have seen me. I doubt that very much. I mean how can you have a Toyota Corolla strapped to the front of your truck for a few seconds without knowing it?
My duel with an 18 wheeler came off considerably worse than Dennis Weaver in Steven Spielberg’s infamous TV-movie. But I’ve become more and more convinced that it was indeed a bona fide divinely intervened miracle. My life was spared that fateful day for a reason. It would take me almost a decade before I would finally learn what that reason was. And every time I look into the beautiful faces of my two boys I know.