Havoc on Interstate 80
Expressive 1010 1st Place
Professor Dr. Rosalyn Eves
"You gotta have stones if you're livin in the city, if ya wanna hang loose, gotta get a grip," blasts from the radio; we've been listening to Aerosmith, but what just happened? Did we really just roll? I'm lying on my side, and the truck has suddenly become extremely cramped. Reaching out to the other side of the truck, I ask, "Stacie, you ok?"
"I think so, I don't know, I can't move my head," She replies. Reaching over in the dark I find her head; there's no blood, but I'm scared to move her.
"You can't move it at all?" I say.
"Barely. It doesn't hurt, but I think I'm stuck," says Stacie. Taking a moment to try and gather myself, it comes to me.
"Damn ice," I think to myself.
Twelve hours earlier we were thrilled to be leaving the hotel. The bed, hard as a rock, offered no comfort of cleanliness and was severely tilted. I could hardly believe they offered the room with the counters falling apart, but I guess that's what you get when you price shop hotels in Council Bluffs, Iowa. If we hadn't arrived so late I'm sure we would have found a different place, but in the dark it didn't seem so bad. When we opened the door to our room, I wasn't sure I wanted to let her in. The carpet was a dirty orange color that reached its height of appeal sometime in the 1970's. There were two dressers or nightstands, just the shelf type contraptions bolted to the wall. Well, they were probably bolted back when they installed the wonderful carpet. Now they were all loose with one in the back hanging down from the only remaining bolt. I felt bad for Stacie; having to stay in a dump like that after all the time she had spent in hospitals. Stacie was going on one year clean from cancer. She'd had three surgeries to remove tumors from her liver and we were headed to Boise, Idaho, in a couple of weeks to have her one year cancer checkup. She was so happy to be out and living that the condition of the room didn't seem to bother her in the least.
The morning sun pierced through the crack between the heavy hotel room drapes, signaling our time to depart. This was the last stop on a three day trip for work. Stacie and I had picked up and dropped off equipment in five towns and were ready to be home. We did love traveling together, but this trip had been plagued by snow storms. Today was promising to be a good day to drive. The storms had passed and the weather man forecasted blue skies. "Ready to go, babe?" I said.
"Almost, just need to brush my hair," she replied
Stacie had long brown hair down to her waist. It was perfectly straight and was one of the things that had attracted me to her. I was getting used to waiting for her to brush it.
"Hurry up, will ya?" I said jokingly. "We ain't got all day."
"Yeah, yeah, we'll leave when I say we leave," she shot back.
I loaded our things in the truck and waited for her to finish. "By the way, happy Valentine's Day, babe," I said.
With a hug and kiss she replied, "You too, hun." And with that we jumped in the truck. It was a long trip from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Cedar City, Utah.
The day was beautiful, and for February in the Northern states, it was the kind of day made for traveling. There was a fresh layer of snow on the ground, and the cold temperatures had left it in its pristine powder form. A stiff wind from the north had the snow blowing across the ground, but only a few feet high. It looked like a fog had settled in low on the road in front of us. A crystal clear sky with a beautiful Wyoming backdrop spread out in front of us. We were making great time, the Dodge truck had no problem pulling the forty foot long flatbed trailer behind us, and with only one piece of equipment left we were practically empty. We stopped in Cheyenne for a late lunch, and then got back on the road. The shining afternoon sun and the blowing snow had left the road wet. With temperatures in the 20's, I was concerned with ice and kept trying to check for it with the throttle. The sun seemed to be keeping the ice at bay so I set the cruise control, popped in some Aerosmith and we kept on driving.
The sun was just touching the horizon in front of us as we approached a small canyon. Not thinking of the shadows that were cast on the roadway by the surrounding hills, I left the cruise control on, and continued on at 75 mph. We dropped down into the canyon and the road turned to the left and then started to climb. We were most of the way through the turn when I started to feel the rear of the truck sliding out. Unfortunately, when I tapped the brakes to turn off the cruise it caused the trailer behind us to push even harder and finish the job of getting me out of control. We were now perpendicular to the trailer sliding sideways down the freeway. As I realized that we were headed to the median sideways, still doing nearly 75 mph, I made one last statement to Stacie. "Oh shit, we're gonna die."
But we didn't die; we're still here, trapped in this truck. "Get a Grip" is still playing on the stereo. "Damon! Damon!" Stacie is yelling at me. I snap back to the moment at hand. The glass is starting to poke through my shirt and into my skin. The truck windows are all gone. In fact, with what little light I have from the dash, I can't see out of the truck at all. We're trapped. I squirm on to my side and try to wiggle over closer to Stacie. "Hang on babe; I've got to turn around," I say. There is barely enough room for my shoulders to fit between the roof of the truck and the bench seat. I have been taking a mental note of any pains I might be experiencing, but so far I haven't found anything. My concern for Stacie, however, is growing by the minute. "How are you? Does anything hurt?" I ask, still trying to work my way around so I can get my hands on her.
"I don't know," she is starting to sob. "I still can't move my head; I don't know what's wrong," she says through the panic. I finally reach her and start a physical inventory of her condition with my hands. Quickly making my way up to her neck, I gently feel my way around. She is lying awkwardly on the seat with her butt up against the door, and her head near the center console. I had been laying the same way only my head was against the door. Finding nothing obviously wrong, and thankfully no blood, I continue my search. As I try to reach around the back of her head my hands are entangled by her hair. With a little more investigation I find that her hair has been sandwiched in between the headrest of her seat and the roof of the truck. "Hang on, Stacie, I think I found the problem," I state. With a little tug and some discomfort for her, I manage to get her hair free from the grasp of the truck. "How's that?" I ask.
"Better. I can move my head now. I think I'm o.k. My knee hurts a little, the one I hurt skiing. What happened? Are you O.K.?" she says with a calmness that I haven't heard since before the truck left the asphalt.
"I'm fine, I think, other than the glass. It's starting to make me itch everywhere. I think we hit black ice," I say.
"Turn the radio off, I think I hear someone," says Stacie. I reach up and turn off the ignition. I have no idea how long it's been since the truck encapsulated us in sheet metal, but it's great to know someone might be out here to help.
"Hey! Are you O.K. in there?" someone yells.
"Yeah, we're fine; can you get us out of here?" I reply.
Time seems to have escaped me; I have no idea how long it took for them to get here with the Jaws of Life to remove the tin can that surrounds us, but they're here now.
As the rescuers work at cutting away the door, I do my best to move away from it. "Stay clear," I hear from outside. I move away as far as I can. The jaws gleam in the pale light emitted from the dash of the truck, and with one final snap, the door is pulled free.
The paramedics are not convinced that we are fine and decide, against my urgings, that we should both be strapped to a back board for the trip to the hospital. They pull us out and start the job of pulling us up the hill to the ambulance waiting above. Before they get me all of the way out, I get a look at what should have killed us.
The truck lies on its top. The roof and windows have disappeared. It almost looks like there has never been a top at all. I can't see any of it. The trailer, still upright, sits with the gooseneck of the 5th wheel hitch lying across the bottom of the truck. The trailer, which had caused me to lose control, has also saved us by not letting the truck roll over and over. The truck rolled with so much force that it laid Stacie and I down sideways on the seats. When the 5th wheel hitch caught the side of the truck, it drove it down to the ground perfectly onto its top. The roof gently reached up and caught us. We are both uninjured.
I left this accident with a feeling of amazement, an understanding of what it means to survive, when history would say you should have died. We soon found out the results from Stacie's one year checkup and it was not the news we had hoped for. The cancer was back. Stacie had undergone three surgeries before this accident, and the future had four more surgeries, and chemo therapy still to offer. I lost Stacie a couple of years later; she was 24 years old. She had fought a courageous seven year battle with cancer. This trip was one of our last great adventures, and as far as our great adventures went, this was our greatest. The next few years changed me, in most ways for the better, in some for the worst. When I think back to our time together I get to smile, and know that although in the end cancer was her demise, Stacie and I cheated death that day on Interstate 80.