Saturday, January 19, 2013

This day that year

Somehow I always manage to remember it - I don't think about it like other days - birthdays, anniversaries, major milestones etc but somehow when I see the date on my phone, I always remember it. It always manages to strike out a chord in my mind and heart.

This day in 2004, nine years ago, I met with a life-threatening accident on I-94 between Milwaukee and Chicago. I went back into the blog to check if I had written about it earlier - I have, but only in passing. A bunch of friends from engineering decided to meet up in Chicago for a re-union. I was the only one with a DL and so I rented and drove around the mini-van that we had hired. It was an AMAZING three days catching up with old pals and what not. The last day, we could not sleep - everyone had early AM flights to catch. So we left Chicago around 4 AM, went to Milwaukee to drop off a few people with flights heading out of there and the rest of us were going back to Chicago, in a snow laden environment. There was a car, that did not check for it's blind spot and came right on to us. In order to avoid it, I braked hard and thanks to the snow, we swiveled and swiveled till we hit the curb. In fact I had not noticed the curb and could only see the huge semi-truck on the other side. I thought we were going under it. I was traveling to India three days later for a vacation and the only thing I remember thinking hard, really hard was "If I have to die, God, please don't kill me here in the US, I want to die in India, just give me three more days of life". When we stopped, there was air bags all around me, and my friends seemed all ok except for minor bruises. We called 911, the rental company, etc. The cops managed to chase down the car based on our description, the rental guys towed us to the closest gas station, gave us a replacement and we were all set to continue in about an hour and a half. Luckily the Chicago flights were all in the afternoon so we had not lost time as such.

The biggest challenge was to overcome my fear and shivering and get back behind the wheel and drive the rest of the 80 miles or so to O'Hare. I did NOT think I was up to it. I had to use all my courage and every bit of my trembling nerves to be able to do it.

I called my friends in Madison, and they said there is no way I should drive back to Madison from O'Hare. I told them, I would be OK, that the worse was over, but they would not listen. K had his PHD presentation that day so he said he'd start for Chicago as soon as that was done, so I waited in O'Hare. My friends all got their flights postponed to late evening and waited with me.

Finally K and M reached and drove me back to Madison. I am thankful for that gesture to this day. When I reached Madison, we returned the rental car etc and went home. An ordeal was over. I lived the day, I survived and got a new lease of life.

My friends were none seriously hurt and I also escaped with just a minor neck ache (thanks to the air bags). Else, I don't think I would have thankful memories of that day, I cannot think of what the guilt would have done to me if things had gone otherwise.

I happened to chat with Subhash the previous night (when we could not sleep and I had to find SOMETHING to do to keep me awake as I was (and still am) not a coffee drinker). He usually was the lone contact online on my Y! chat and was always "I'm on SMS" and I had a prejudice against that status. But I pinged him anyway, since I had to keep awake. General chit-chat and stuff later I logged off. The next day I woke up in Madison, and logged in, I saw him online. I pinged him. He seemed to be the only connection I had from my previous life into this re-born life. I told him what happened after I logged off and went out, and he was shocked enough to call me at that time (it was very late in the night for him then and he later told me he was with a super boss when I pinged him). My friends and K were suspicious and asked me who this guy was and what was really going on, and I honestly told them, we were just friends. He was just my senior from college etc. And equally honestly had to change my stand to - we are thinking of marriage, less than a year later.

Of course, no one believed me then :) I think.


Anonymous said...

Wow that must hv been one harrowing experience. I-94 is getting even more crowded at that stretch. Good that nobody was hurt.

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