The moment of impact

Around 9:25 this morning, I was hit by a car while driving the bus.

As I entered an intersection, a car to my left ran a stop sign and I instantly knew we weren’t going to make it in time. That was the moment of realization.

The next moment, I screamed, “Oh my God!” and looked at the street in front of me and away from the car as it hit. That was the moment of reaction. I may have also sped up or slammed on the breaks, but I can’t remember at this point.

Then, the car slammed into my door and the front end of the bus I was driving. That was the moment of impact.

In the three hours after, I pulled the bus off the road, called 911, swapped information, started to feel sorry for the guy that hit me, got a friend to pick up the students, got a ride to the graduation, cried during the entire ceremony, ate food, and introduced my parents to all my friends. It was an amazing, but there was still part of me that hadn’t quite forgotten that I was hit by a car earlier in the morning. The phrase “shaken up” even started to make a little more sense.

There are so many moments in one day, but they don’t all create lasting memories. After today I realized that if there’s one thing that does seem to create memories, it’s impact. Even after this great day, I have images burned in my mind of the car to my left, as it entered the intersection, and the view out the windshield as I screamed and it knocked the bus sideways.

When miles of force are compressed into fractions of seconds, the memory of trauma can last a lifetime. After the wreck, I even realized I was carrying the tension with me in my neck and lower back.

My students who were on the bus during the wreck were already making jokes a few hours later. One came up to me and laughed and said, “Oh my God … BAM!” a few times. All I could do was laugh. It seemed like a good way to remember the experience. I could think that it was a terrible day. Of course, it was a hard morning, but it was also kind of hilarious.

To be honest, it was also kind of miraculous. No one dead, no one hurt, everyone got to the graduation on time, the other guy had insurance. It’s hard to think of a wreck as a miracle — that is, it’s hard to think of the moment of impact as a miraculous moment — because it seems so violent. But if I’m stuck with the memory forever I don’t want to simply hold onto the violence of the moment.

I want to retell the story in the way that my student told it: to entertain. I also want to tell it in the way that I’m currently thinking about it: to inspire. It happened. I figure I should go ahead and make something out of it.

That way, it won’t be waste. It will be a story worth telling.

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