19 August 2003 began like any other day. I woke up at the cruel and unusual hour of 6:30, which ought to be illegal, to catch the bus on time for my awesome temp job at a bank. There was a permanent position coming up, which I planned to apply for and probably could’ve gotten.
Though I could’ve taken two buses to work, I liked the 15-minute walk. Part of it went through a kind of sketchy area, but I never had any run-ins with the wrong kind of people.
At about 8:00, while I was crossing the street after getting off my bus, the light changed and a black 2004 Chrysler immediately began driving. My elderly assailant didn’t brake after I was bumped up onto the hood of her car. She didn’t brake when I tumbled into the road. She continued driving as though I weren’t underneath her car.
I truly believed I was about to die at the age of 23, and all these thoughts began rattling around in my brain like crazed pinballs. It was terrifying.
And then the Angel of Death passed me over.
My right leg’s final act as my dominant leg was stopping that vehicle of doom from going any farther. Had my legs not become pinned underneath the back driver’s side wheel, Mrs. V. would’ve kept on driving. It’s a miracle only my right leg broke. The right rolled on top of the left and protected it.
As soon as I realised I wasn’t dead, the most intense physical pain of my life hit me, and I began screaming over and over again, at the top of my lungs, “Help me, God!” I couldn’t feel my legs, and was terrified I’d been paralysed. My shoes had flown off, and my stomach and abdomen were being burnt.
A group of people ran across the street to help me. Some of them, including a fireman, tried to lift the car off me, but didn’t succeed. A bespectacled African-American woman in green scrubs, whose name I never got, held my hand, prayed with me, and kept talking to me to try to calm me down. I wish I could find her and thank her.
I was pinned underneath that Chrysler for 15-20 minutes, fully conscious. When the ambulance finally arrived, I remembered a story my summer school chemistry teacher told about a guy who was stuck between a subway and a wall. Her colleagues got into a big debate over whether he’d explode or implode when he was freed. In terror, I asked, “I’m not gonna explode or implode, am I?” before the car was lifted off.
It was such a relief to wiggle my toes. That meant I wasn’t paralysed. Then I began to sit up to check if my back were broken, only to be pushed down. As I was loaded onto the stretcher, I said, “I have to be at work by 8:30.”
I couldn’t walk for eleven months, and had seven surgeries between August 2003–September 2009, four leg and three plastic (to remove the burn scars). I also needed two root canals. Some of the chickenpox scars on my lower left arm were torn clear off.
I believe down to the very core of my soul my uncle was watching over me. There’s no rational explanation for why I wasn’t killed and got off with “only” a shattered tibia and fibula, second- and first-degree burns, and a bunch of gashes, scrapes, and bruises.
Had this happened 50-60 years ago, I would’ve been an amputee.
Had I died on 19 August, I would’ve shared my Jahrzeit (death anniversary) with Groucho Marx and Blaise Pascal.
A taller, thinner person might’ve been crushed or thrown. My (mostly) Southern Italian body type saved my life. I had less distance to fall (at slightly over 5’1.5″ in bare feet), and more flesh to cushion the impact.
“Gud, låt min själ få komma till mognad innan den skall skördas!”
(“God, let my soul come to maturity before being harvested!”)