The Perfect Day For Disaster This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Forty miles of bleak freeway loomed ahead of us. The weather was muggy; the kind of day where thick, moist air slaps you in the face as soon as you step outside: the perfect day for disaster.

I tried to keep spirits high, leaning forward between the seats, serenading my four-year-old cousin who was thoroughly amused by my horrendous singing. The car suddenly screeched to a halt, and sounds of metal torn to shreds and shattered glass flooded my ears. Screams surrounded me, drowning out the sound of my cousin, Ayesha, our driver, who was barking orders and violently shaking me. I hadn't the slightest clue what was happening, all I knew was I was okay. My cousin threw open the door and ran out into the middle of the four-lane highway. I vividly remember the sight of her body slumping lifelessly to the ground in shock. Curious what she had seen that was so terrible, I turned to look, and immediately wished I hadn't. A sour lump rose in my throat and for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no idea what to do. Every fiber in my body, every bit of my soul began to tremble uncontrollably.

The car that we swerved to avoid had rammed into the car behind us, my aunt's car. Looking at the wreckage and realizing my sister was in that car, I suddenly felt sick. My world was transformed. Although my mind was racing, everything else around me seemed to slow down. Time stopped. The world before me began to melt like something out of a bad horror movie.

The front wheels barely remained attached to the mangled car, with the body an accordion of metal. Looking at the wreckage, one would never imagine that anyone had survived. I peered cautiously in through the passenger-side window, and immediately wished I hadn't. The steering wheel had been thrust into the dashboard, knocking my aunt unconscious. I feel horrible, but I remember pleading with God to take everyone in the car if He felt it necessary, but please spare my sister. I gave a sigh of relief finding her conscious in the backseat with my three cousins, all wailing in immense pain. As I helped pull her from the car, my shirt was immediately soaked by blood from her mouth. Again, I felt sick. I wished the earth would crack open this cursed freeway - now stained with charcoal skid marks - and swallow me up, but I realized that I had to be strong. After all, I was the only one conscious, aside from my four-year-old cousin. I didn't know what to do. I was tired of being the adult. I wanted to put aside my fear and be strong for my sister's sake, but I didn't know how; I was only a child. I began to clean the area around my sister's badly cut mouth and was relieved to hear the consoling song of sirens in the distance.

After the ambulances arrived, everything that happened remains a blur in my mind; perhaps because I don't remember, or perhaps because I don't want to. Random images still flash through my mind. I remember them strapping my sister to a rough, splintery headboard telling me, "Don't worry, dear, it's nothing serious." Well, if it wasn't serious, why were they strapping her to a board? I realize it was for her own protection, but at the time I felt they were conspiring against me. The paramedics pestered me about her allergies and insurance and I remember thinking, My sister is dying and that's all you have to say! The biggest shock was yet to come: they wouldn't allow me to ride in the ambulance, and my sister refused to go without me. Clawing at the most compassionate-looking paramedic, I begged and pleaded. I felt as though I had lost my mind. The paramedic saw my panic and allowed me to ride with them.

My parents were waiting at the hospital, and I was relieved to run to my mother's arms and not pretend to be an adult any longer.

Weeks after the accident I was still overwhelmed. Images followed me around during my waking hours and haunted my nightmares to the point where I was afraid to close my eyes for fear of being thrown back onto that highway. I finally decided that it was time to sort through my feelings; it was all over now, why was I so scared? I think I felt guilty; there must have been something I could have done to prevent it. I know, now, that I had no control. I felt as though I had failed; as though my family resented me for not having done something to help. Glancing in through the window at the accident, I had felt so powerless. People were trapped inside, fighting for their lives, and I couldn't help.

Oddly, it took me longer to recover than those involved. In fact, I have yet to recover. I cannot sit in the car without putting on my seat belt, and I still get chills when we pass the accident site. Time has erased the skid marks from the road, but they remain permanently engraved in my mind. I recently started driving, and it scares me to death to think I could be involved in an accident as life-altering and dangerous as the one I witnessed. Every time I drive I hear the sound of screeching tires and panicked screams.

In many ways, I wish that I had never seen that accident, but I can't honestly say that it didn't help me. Without it, I would not be as cautious about driving. And one of the most important decisions I ever made came about as a result of this tragic event: I want to be a doctor. I had always thought about it, but when I saw those people trapped in the car, it touched something deep inside. The feeling of helplessness that overpowered me is one I never want to feel again. I am just thankful that everyone in the accident recovered.

This accident put things into perspective and forced me to realize that life does not come with a guarantee. There is no telling when it will end. The words "Live each day to its fullest" have an entirely new meaning for me, and have become my motto. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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