Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Suriving Tragedy / ID bracelets

It seems I only write here where there is some crisis or big event. Maybe those things happen more than I realized? I don't know. Here's our latest big event. ....

Sunday, August 18th
About a year ago I bought Angela an emergency ID bracelet. She hates it, and obsesses about taking it off, so I finally gave up trying to get her to wear

Fast forward.......

I live in MN. Last week I needed to make a trip to Western Montana, so Angela was going to spend the week with her dad. He drives semi over the road, and was going to be making a run to California. Angela was excited to go along on the trip. She's gotten to do it a couple of times this summer.

At 8:30 last night (mountain time) I talked to Angela on the phone. She had just woken up from a nap in the back of the sleeper truck, and moved herself to the front seat where she got herself buckled into her seatbelt. "When er you picking me up?" she asked. " I'm bored of the truck!"

I told her, "You'll be home tomorrow, and then we'll go school shopping, ok?"

At about the same time, in Mountain Veiw, Wyoming, the county sheriff was negotiating with a man who was racing through town in a corvette. During the chase he called his girlfriend (or wife, I'm still not clear which) and told her, "I'm going to go out with a semi. Goodbye!!!" The chase continued to the freeway. The State Patrol met him there and threw out tire strips, but he was able to avoid them...twice. He raced down Interstate 80, clocked over
100 miles per hour. (the trooper later told me they don't know how fast he was going, as their cars top out at 110 and they couldn't keep up to him.

He headed West on I-80, and finally, at some point, crossed the median into oncoming traffic. Angela and her dad could see the flashing lights ahead of them but didn't know they were on THEIR side of the road speeding directly toward them. Angela commented, "Uh oh! Bad guy speeding!" or something like that. Just a second later her dad realized they were going to get hit. He swerved the semi one way, and the car met his swerve. He swerved the other
way, and again the car met him, the drivers sights set on hitting the truck. Finally, knowing the impact was coming, Angela's dad threw the wheel to the right, hoping to jack-knife the truck so the car would hit the trailer instead. He looked over at Angela, knowing they were going to die.

The car hit the front drivers corner, taking out the front axle of the
truck, and the fuel tank, causing it to catch fire. When everything stopped moving, Angela's dad looked over to see the trailer had slid forward and was now outside Angela's window. She'd already unbuckeled herself, and the flames were coming from under the dash. There were only seconds to get out of the truck. Her dad grabbed her, kicked his door open, expecting to jump down out of the truck. But there was no jumping...the floorboards were on
the ground, and flames were now coming from under the cab.

He ran across the road and handed Angela to someone in a truck who had watched the whole event. He ran back to the truck, in a hysterical attempt to get things out. (you know how you don't always think clearly in something like this.) He was just able to get a couple things out of the pocket on the door when the entire truck went up in flames. He was able to get away.

The man in the car had been ejected, and was found dead under the bridge where the impact happened. Angela's dad hadn't known they were on a bridge. At some time he tried to get around the debris, and in the darkness was going to step over the thigh-high rail to get around the truck. At the last second he realized there was no ground there. He would have fallen about 30 ft, just about landing on the body of the dead driver.

When the fire was put out, Angela's dad went to take pictures of the truck. A fireman said, "I'm sorry, you'll have to get away from here. We still haven't recovered the bodies out of this truck." They didn't even KNOW that Angela and her dad had gotten out! (at that time they still hadn't found the body of the car driver and were concentrating on looking for him. They assumed the truck driver had burned up in the fire.)

Two or 3 days ago, I told my husband Dean, "You know, I should be making Angela wear her ID bracelet when she goes with her dad. What if something happened? Nobody would have any idea who she was, know to get a hold of me, or how." Last night was a prime example. Nobody knew who Angela was. The people in the car who were keeping her safe and warm while her dad dealt with the police and firemen didn't know her name, and I doubt could understand her. Someone could have called me then. Instead I knew nothing
until about 3:00 in the morning when someone finally tracked me down. (Angela's dad's phone burned up in the fire and he couldn't remember my number since it was just in his phone.)

Angela and her dad escaped the accident with only minor scrapes. Angela has a bruise on her thigh from hitting the gear shift as her dad yanked her out of the truck. It is only a miracle. There were angels protecting them every step of the way last night.

They are still in Wyoming, about a 24 hour drive if they go straight
through. Her dad's boss went to pick them up. But first they need to meet at the accident scene tomorrow with the investigators and the insurance adjustors. I don't expect them to make it home until Weds. I just want to hold my girl. She seems so very far away right now. I wasn't even THERE and the images in my head of what she saw are keeping me awake, along with the images of what COULD have been the case instead.

Please, hug your kids tonight, and put those ID bracelets on them. There are lots of really neat ones out there. Pretty ones for little girls. More durable and sporty ones for little boys. Whether your child has a disability or not, in an accident they may not be able to communicate, and people may not know who they belong to. Don't get the kind that go on your child's shoe laces. Why? Well in Saturday's accident, Angela was barefoot. Her shoes were burned up in the fire. Even if she had shoes on, how many times have you seen those emergency room shows and the person comes in missing a shoe? Shoes fly off during accidents all the time. Me...I want permanent. I'm thinking a tattoo or microchip!

~Leah Spring~


Karen O'Neill said...

I just read your article in the Uinta Conty Herald. My family and I were heading home to Evanston, Wyoming that night after attending a wedding in Green River Wyoming. We saw smoke in the air miles ahead of the crash and my husband said another semi must have caught on fire, as we approached this horrific accident we knew that nobody would have lived through that, in either vehicle. My 13 year old son put his seatbelt on correctly and said that makes me feel sick to my stomach, what a terrible thing to see. I am soooo glad to be able to go home and have him read that letter in the Herald and let him know that there are angels out there. I am so glad your daughter and her father are alright. I think about what they will have to remember and play over in their minds. I am so glad your family is safe.

Anonymous said...

I just read your letter to the Uinta County Herald. I live in Evanston, Wyoming, right off of I-80. My family and I had been at a friends wedding and were heading home on I-80, we saw smoke in the air and my husband thought that maybe a semi had caught on fire.As we got closer we came upon this horrible accident, our hearts sank, we knew nobody would have lived through that. My son put his seatbelt on correctly and said he didn't feel well after witnessing this scene. We proceeded home just knowing that noone lived through that accident. I am so glad to be able to go home tonight and have my son read the article and let him know that miracles do happen and there are angels among us. I am so glad your daughter and her father are ok. My prayers are with them as they will probably re live this over and over. Good luck to you and your daughter.

Kam Kam's Mom said...

Dear Leah,

By now (the Friday after) your precious daughter and her dad are home safe and sound. Please give them both a hug from me and one from Angie, my best friend; and from my "Mom-heart", I send you two hugs!

I received a link to your blog today in an email with your letter to the UC Herald Editor. After reading your blog, I felt completely compelled to share a little side of Tosh that I appreciated and think you will as well.

It's a long story, but I will keep it as short as I can. My best friend, Angie, got caught up in the after math of the accident and had phoned me late Saturday night to let me know what had happened. She knew that Tosh was a friend and that I thought very highly of him. As she told me, I couldn't get my head around the fact that he had done this intentionally. It just wasn't Tosh. In shock and denial I only caught about 1/2 of what she was telling me but I did remember her saying that the truck driver had his little girl with him and they had both gotten out safely. She briefly mentioned that she had special needs. I was thankful and relieved for the blessing that they walked away, but soon became consumed with the rest of the story.

When I opened your blog today and read that Angela has Downs, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Tosh had an amazing, God-given love and compassion for little kids and his Aunt "George". She has Downs and lives with her mother, Tosh's grandma. Tosh was so good to both of them; checking on them nearly everyday. As they are my neighbors, I saw him visiting often and always doing things around the house for them. "George" and Tosh shared a very special bond and she is really stuggling without "her Tosh". Six years ago, when we adopted our son, Tosh and I worked together. I took my beautiful baby to visit one day before returning to work and it was then that he told me that he hoped to adopt a special needs baby one day. We talked about it a couple times after that. Tosh knew of the trials and the hardships it would entale but didn't hesitate a second that it was what he wanted. He held those with Downs close to his heart and had a gift of knowing exactly how to connect with them on a compassionate, loving level.

Everyone has their own thoughts about the after life. I feel like Tosh was there helping your baby and her dad get out safely after he realized what he had just done. I know, with all of my heart, he never intended to hurt your family. It just wasn't in him. I thank you for your forgiveness and understanding and pray that Angela's angels will continue to watch over all of you. If you can find it in your heart to think of Tosh as one of her guardians as well, I know he would be honored.

dina said...

I have just read your article.I am so glad to hear that your daughter and her father are okay.
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