My day was spent differently than I originally envisioned it.

It started with an afternoon trip to the pumpkin patch with friends, as expected. This was a prelude to tomorrow’s 4th Annual (1st on the East Coast) Pumpkin Carving Extravaganza. We were preparing to acquire a bunch of pumpkins and then head out to do party shopping and come home to decorate.

Everything was going pretty well up through being on our way to go shopping. We had plenty of pumpkins and had really enjoyed our time at the pumpkin patch/farm/market place where we’d gone. We were in high spirits and already anticipating the day to come.

I stopped at the first red light after the patch, and was looking to my left to see when I might have an opening to make a right turn. I thought there might be enough of an opening, then hesitated and decided to wait for the next cars to pass. A black pickup truck was coming toward me and then threw on its turn signal to go right. I thought this would possibly make an opening, so I looked behind the pickup to make sure the trailing car was slowing down enough to give me time. I noted with alarm that they were actually accelerating toward the truck. I expected them to start to veer left around the truck at their increasing speed, but instead they drifted right, picking up speed while climbing the grassy shoulder. Then they suddenly took out the corner street sign and I turned away to brace for impact.

It came.

They smashed into the back part of the right side of the pickup, which had almost fully completed its turn, sending the pickup straight into the front corner of our car. I didn’t see what happened to the out-of-control car next, but it somehow ended up crossing the opposite lane of traffic, taking out a mailbox, and winding up crashed into a tree.

I felt for any major damage to myself and noted none, then turned to Emily and asked “Are you alive?” She was, and largely unhurt, and then I looked up to the driver of the pickup. He opened his eyes and looked at me dazedly. Emily and I discussed what had just transpired and I explained it to her since she had seen none of it coming. We left the vehicle, talked to the pickup driver, who proved to be mostly all right, then tried to assess what had happened. A couple of bystanders went over to see if the person in the out-of-control car was okay.

She attested to blacking out and having no memory from seeing a green light in front of her to seeing the tree in front of her on the other side of the road. Somehow she too was generally unharmed. All three vehicles were in really bad shape and everyone had some neck pain and such, but it was a generally amazing survival of the worst situation I’ve ever faced in a motor vehicle.

The thing that’ll stay with me most, assuming that the negative x-rays were accurate and my soreness eventually fades, is that split-second between seeing the street sign go down and the cessation of the impact. In that moment, which was both slow and fast just like you’ve heard (or felt) such moments to be, I had to prepare to die. That feeling of resigning, of yielding the fate of one’s life, is not one I’ll forget soon, or perhaps ever. I was completely out of options – there were cars behind, on my left, and in front. There was no where to go that would not increase the danger of the situation. There was no time to react. All I could do was cede control to the forces already in motion and hope for the best.

There’s no telling the fate of the car, which was towed and will be dealt with by insurance companies and the dealership. I was surprised at how late I got concerned with and upset about the fate of the car – it had been several minutes before I thought about it being unfortunate that our car may be totaled. I was probably more concerned with it catching fire or blowing up and creating a new round of jeopardy well before I thought to be upset that the car was wrecked. It was enough to have spent a second preparing to leave the planet and reopening my eyes to find I was still here.

I have a feeling this pumpkin-carving party is going to be even sweeter than normal.