On Our Car-Crash Anniversary

A year ago this weekend I was in a major car accident that didn’t change my life.

Rather inconveniently, this happened in a very specifically rural part of West Virginia where both cell phone service and wifi are illegal—smack near the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone,  “a 13,000 square mile stretch of land designated by the FCC to protect two government radio telescopes from man-made interference.” That renders all emergency calls to cops,  ambulances (if needed), and tow trucks impossible. This is not the best place to total your car at 11 pm in freeze-your-fingers 2 degree weather.

We were lucky that two other couples had been driving fairly close behind us; otherwise we would have been stuck in near-zero-degree darkness with little idea where we were and no way to contact anyone. (This was also driving on backroads through woods nearly uninhabited by humans). Our fellow strangers helped us climb out the side (now the top) of the car, heaved and ho’ed with us to get the mangled piece of metal upright again, then gave us hours-long rides to our approximate destination.

The car rolled somewhere between 1 and 3 times with us in it, I’m not quite sure the exact number. The black ice snuck up on us—or we on it—as four of us chatted away, excited about our weekend tucked in the ski slopes of Snowshoe, West Virginia. It’s funny how minds and memories really do slow events down in these kinds of situations. I constructed this vivid vision of the Pringles in the front seat between Chris and I sliding somewhat gracefully out of their open container, hanging in the air before scattering everywhere as we flipped upside down, right side up, and to all the places in between. OB’s back-seat perspective of the flip, on the other hand, includes four pair of hands stabilizing our bodies using the car ceiling, Kelly’s and my long hair hair flying this and that way based on our shifting velocity.

The car settled on its side before we could process the fact that the wheels had left the ground at all. I tried opening and lifting my passenger-side door as it sat above me, but confusion and gravity joined forces against me to resist my efforts until an aforementioned stranger came along and helped us from the outside. Seatbelts are difficult to undo when all of your weight is resting on the buckle that now sits below you!

The next five hours were filled with a myriad of different coincidences and adventures, miracles by my standards, that led to eight friends (there were two cars driving up separately—one crashed, the other lost) being reunited at 4 am for a feast in our rented cabin. Everyone went to bed that late night, both exhausted and thrilled to ski when it got light later that day.

What still strikes me as most spectacular about this whole experience is how absolutely unharmed everyone and everything was (except for the totaled car, of course).  Between the four of us, we counted fewer than five minor scrapes and bruises. The beer was fine; the tomatoes were fine; the wo snowboards that had been strapped to the roof as the car rolled over them… they were absolutely fine. Chris and Kelly rode on their boards that same day, bodies and equipment completely unbroken. It still blows my mind.

Call it a miracle. Call it guardian angels. Call it karma(?). I see it as just one more thing that blows my mind about existence (and there’s a long list for that). Retrospectively watching our GoPro footage from that weekend (see below), I am struck by how simultaneously delicate and powerful the body is and by how things that are supposed to go horribly wrong can turn out bizarrely okay.

What a way to start a ski weekend, eh?

This little video is a year overdue bc I thought I’d actually do something interesting with the footage… but alas, I haven’t. Here are some shots from us toying around with a GoPro at Snowshoe in West Virginia.

This is right after four of the seven of us got in a car-rolling, car-totalling accident. Literally no injuries other than a drop or two of blood. And the snowboards in the footage? They were on the roof of the car as it rolled over them. No damage.

Music: ‘Linguistics’ by Cunning Linguists (and apologies for the video quality.. for some reason I didn’t convert from H 2.64 to Apple ProRes 422 before editing and that doesn’t make Final Cut happy….)

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