"It Was Just a Normal Day"

September 24, 2007
By Chad Hotimsky, Grand Junction, CO

On April 5, though, only one of my two normal riding buddies, Garrett, showed up. After exchanging the typical grunts of the early morning teenager, we began to ride April 5, 2006 – 4/5/06 – marked the day of the most traumatizing experience of my, then, thirteen years of life. The routine preceding the incident was not any different what I had been performing for the whole school year prior to that day; I woke up at 5:45am, took a shower, got dressed, made my bed, packed my lunch, ate breakfast, and met one of the two friends that I typically rode to school with. For that whole school year, besides the winter, we had ridden our bikes to East Middle School every morning. That day – April 5 – began as any other school day would, with no hint at what was to come. It was just a normal day, what could we expect?

Throughout middle school, I attended the Challenge Program at EMS. As we live in the Redlands, there was no bus for my friends and I to take to school, so we decided to take the responsibility of getting ourselves to school in our own hands, and we rode our bikes to school. This daily ritual ensured that we were nice and fresh every morning for school, meaning that we at least stayed awake during first period geometry. We pedaled rode along South Camp Road. I rode in a haze, nearly half-asleep, as we proceeded to turn onto Monument Road and head north towards school. We coasted down the two-and-a-half mile hill, until we hit South Broadway. Turning left after crossing the street, Garrett and I rode at a brisk pace up the bike path towards the bridge, anxious to get to school on time. None of us typically felt this anticipation as we rode to school, but today was Wednesday, the second of three days of CSAP testing. Before the sidewalk veered away from the oncoming intersection, I checked for the green light, my signal to go. I then looked right, left, back behind me, and forward into oncoming traffic. Observing that I had the right of way, I started to ride up onto the street, behind a trailer, and across the street. It was just a normal street crossing.

Because the crosswalk began thirty feet away from the intersection, behind the vehicles waiting at the stoplight, I failed to see that a car was coming from the road behind me, making a left turn through a yellow light. Although he had a good thirty to forty feet to stop before colliding with me, the driver did not stop until after making contact with my bike and my body.

All that I can remember from the accident was a blue sedan hurtling towards me, and then it was as though my brain shut off to dull the pain. With only a mere glimpse at the ground as I tumbled headfirst off the side of the car after first rolling on top it, I woke up on the ground with my back pack under me, my helmet intact, and one shoe off. There was no immediate pain that I felt, but I could feel with my tongue that my front four teeth had been pushed back; the stainless steel wire on my braces had saved my teeth from breaking, though I eventually had to have four root canals on those teeth.

This was all a new experience for me, so I felt bewildered as the ambulance and fire truck came to my rescue. I had wondered, “Why is there a fire truck at a bike accident?” The emergency team cut off my backpack, lifted me off the ground and onto a long orange board. The sensation of being lifted off the ground with no pressure on my body confused my already concussed mind. The ambulance came next into my line of sight, then the emergency room, and then my mom who was freaking out more than I was; though I have to admit, I felt quite mellow. I just don’t see the point in freaking out; it doesn’t solve anything; it just gets the people who are trying to help you pissed off at you. The trip to the orthodontist and dentist were the most painful, however. In the emergency room, I was just being helped for my minor road rash; in the orthodontist, though, I had to have my teeth pulled back, nearly wrenching out my jaw.

The whole incident turned out to be my fault according to the Grand Junction Legal System. Apparently in a crosswalk, any bike riders have to dismount and walk their bikes across the road. I didn’t, though, so I was in the wrong. I don’t care about that, however; because if I had walked my bike across, I would have gone under the car, not over; and I would be dead right now, not writing this essay. So I’m okay with my ignorance of the minor city ordinances.

Despite my views from the previous paragraph, I am now very cautious of any cars near me when I bike ride through town or anywhere else. I still question the monetary charges, though, because the driver claimed that I caused $3500 worth of damage to his car, when the only part of my body that was badly injured was my face, and my bike was fine. Who knows? At least I have a good story to tell my grandkids someday and I got to experience the ‘terrible’ turmoil that teenagers are in this days through the many court dates I had that were shared by knife-carrying, fist-fighting kids of all ages.

If you erase the car accident, the emergency room, and the court dates soon to follow, though, it was just another normal day riding to school.

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