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I can still picture them clear as day, all of my kids — even though it happened around 27 years ago. The memories are like photographs in my mind which will never go away.

It was when I drove that old Dodge Aires wagon a few months after all of my kids and I were involved in a terrible and scary car accident in my 86 Ford Escort Wagon. I was driving down Liberty Street in Salem Oregon, taking all the kids home from something. Megan, who was barely a year old at the time, sat in her car seat and Melissa and Jeremy, ages 10 and 8, sat next to her squished in the back. Stevie, who was around 11 sat in the front seat next to me.

Suddenly, a huge truck, pulled out of the driveway of a store right in front of me without stopping. In order to avoid crashing into him, I had to swerve to the left. Because of this, a Suburban in the lane next to mine hit my Ford Escort and we flew into the middle of a busy intersection in downtown Salem, Oregon. It all happened so fast that I remember hearing glass break and Jeremy yelled. Stevie hung on to the door shaking a little. I remember Jeremy’s arms over his head for a split second. Cars swerved all around us, most of them just seemed impatient and wanted us to get out of the way. I attempted to start the car and go, but the car wouldn’t go. All I could think of was getting the kids safely out of the car. I also remember that sharp pain that went down from my neck into my back as I undid my seatbelt and opened the doors. I got Megan out of her car seat and instructed my shocked and shaken up kids to hang on to me as we navigated the busy intersection on to the sidewalk. The truck which caused the accident had disappeared — hit and run, and the only driver who stayed behind was the guy in the Suburban who hit me from behind. He ran over and asked us if we were okay, truly concerned for us.

Then the cops showed up. They asked if I could get he car out of the intersection before they asked if we were okay, and I said no. So we all had to push my poor Ford Escort with the back side so smashed you could not even see the fender — and the side windows all broke during the impact. I was so grateful that the kids were okay. That’s all that mattered. The car didn’t matter at all, but that seemed to be what the two cops were concerned about, although in passing they did ask if we were okay. No, we’re not okay, dude. That was the scariest thing ever. We could’ve all died!

The cop said that I should have hit the truck head on instead of swerving into the next lane which most likely would make the accident my fault. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t hit a truck head on with all four of my kids in a small car. Luckily, the guy driving the Suburban backed up my story 100%. He told the cops I had no choice, and that if I had hit the truck head on, it’s possible some of us would have died in the impact. In fact, that driver helped me get an actual medical settlement because we all suffered from whiplash except Megan who was well protected in her car seat. I also got a settlement for my totaled car, but for a while, I was so traumatized that I was afraid to drive. Luckily, some friends and neighbors came to the rescue and helped us out with rides. I also suffered permanent neck damage from that car accident which still plagues me some 25 years later.

Finally, my neighbor said his friend was selling an old station wagon for $600, a bit bigger than what I was accustomed to driving, but seemed safer. We named the Dodge Aires wagon, “The Star Cruiser” because it needed shocks and bounced a bit on the road. One of my kids hung small wind chimes in the car that seemed to go along well with the music blasting from the stereo and the car windows open.

One afternoon, Jeremy and Megan both cried after I dropped Stevie and Melissa off to meet their friends because they wanted to go too. Megan was in her car seat. Amid the chorus of crying, Jeremy proclaimed, if I could only have a puppy, then everything will be okay!” If only.

Jeremy has had a dog since he was 17 nonstop, and Megan has too.


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