The reason I didn’t pull any muscles and could hang upside down for 15 minutes in comfort was because of Bikram Yoga. The reason I am alive is because of the grace of God.

I was driving north on I 280. It was a clear, cool, sunny day. I just got into the far right lane to turn onto I 880 south to Santa Cruz. I checked my rear view mirror and saw a car about 10 car lengths behind me coming up very fast. I thought, he has to slow down, he’s going too fast. I looked forward to see if I could speed up but I couldn’t. There were cars in front of me forming a line to turn onto highway 880 south. There were cars to the left of me forming a cue to turn onto highway 880 north. I looked in my rear view mirror and I saw him again only very close now. He hasn’t slowed down. I saw his face in my rear view mirror. He was very angry; there was rage on his face. He was going to hit me. I looked forward again to see if I could move up or get into the left lane. There was no room to move. Then I was hit.

He hit the back, passenger corner of my car. The car spun to the left, counterclockwise. I kept thinking I should turn the steering wheel into the turn, but if I did the car was going so fast I would hit someone head on going extremely fast and kill them and me. I tried to turn the wheel a little to the right to slow the spin. The car flipped onto the passenger side of the roof. I slid thinking I was up against a wall, noise, sparks, bumpy. Finally, the car rolled onto the full roof. I was hanging by my seat belt looking at the blacktop go by through the broken out sunroof. All I was thinking is don’t hit anyone else. Then I realize my hair was being pulled out the sun roof opening and dragging onto the street. Was it hair I smelled burning? There was something happening to my hair. I let go of the armrests and reached down to the top of my head. I scooped my hair back and held it near the nap of my neck as I continued the skid.

Finally, the car slowed to a stop. I hadn’t hit anyone else. I remained suspended upside down by my seat belt, holding my hair and I started breathing deeply. The loud sound of my breath pulling in and out of my lungs made me feel better, I was doing something. I was trying to slow down my pulse, somehow have some control. It was comforting hearing the breathing. I did it for many minutes. After the questions, “Are you all right?” I would breath. After the statements, “I called 911, help is coming.” I would breath. After the reassurance, “They’re on their way, they’ll be here soon.” I would breath.

My pulse slowed down. I let go of my hair and looked around. Men’s legs and feet were walking by my window. Occasionally, a man would bend over and look sideways through the window at me, “Are you alright?” I would try to sound calm, “I’m fine.”

A man name Derek that had introduced himself earlier and had called 911 came by again, “Help’s on the way.”

“Can you call my husband?”
No response.
“Can you call my husband?”
No response.
“Can you call my husband?”
No response. The traffic noise must be very loud. He can’t hear me.
“Can you call my husband?”
He heard me.
I give him the phone number.
I later found out that it was Derek that hit me. I guess he wasn’t in any hurry to talk to my husband.

Upside down and waiting, after what seemed like ten minutes I looked at the ceiling of the car. There were my belongings scattered all over. I saw individually wrapped Wet Ones below me. My hand had a few small punctures from the broken glass. The blood had congealed in firm little drops. Bored, or needing to do something, I reached for a Wet One and tore open the package. I wiped the blood drops off my hand. The cleanser smelled too strong; I threw it far away onto the passenger side. I waited.

Firefighters appeared next to the passenger window, “How do you feel?”

“I’m fine.”
“Do you hurt anywhere?”
“Did you lose consciousness?”
“We’re going to get you out.”
“We’re going to break the glass of your window. Look to your right so the glass doesn’t hurt you.”

I looked right toward the voice and put my hands next to my face to shield it. Then I saw the folded laminated Trader Joe’s grocery bag. I grabbed it and stick it next to my face.

POW, a hammer hit the glass. Then a pause.
POW, another blow. Then a pause.
POW, another blow.
No glass is breaking. Voices above me.
A voice from the passenger side, “Can you unlock your door?”
I reach down to press the button then realize it was above me. I look up.
Where is the button? Where is the arm rest the button is on?
I finally see the switch and press it. The doors unlock. The electrical system still works.
“We’re going to try to open the door.”
I wait.
Crunching sounds and quiet groans, the door opens.
“How do you feel?”
“I’m fine.”
“Does anything hurt?”
“Did you lose consciousness?”

A paramedic squats next to me, “I’m going to put a brace around your neck. How do you feel…Did you lose consciousness?”

I help guide the braces behind my neck and back.
The firefighters reappears, “Can you move your legs?” “Yes.”
He reaches around my waist to see if he can reach the safety belt buckle.
“Give me warning before you loosen my safety belt. I don’t want to fall into the broken glass.”, I say.
The voice says, “I will.”
I say, “Do you have a blanket to put over the broken glass.”
The voice, “I’ll get one.”

He returns and the blanket goes down, “Okay. Here we go.”, he says.
I brace myself.
He reaches around and pushes the button on the safety belt buckle.

I don’t fall. I am only ten inches from the roof on the car. I know this because my hair was cut by the broken glass sticking out of the metal sun roof frame. My hair use to be half way down my back, now it was ten inches long.

I’m bracing myself.
A voice, “Can you move your legs?”

I move my left leg out. My right leg is behind something but I don’t know what. I literally don’t know up from down. The firefighter guides my right leg around something (the steering wheel?). I move my right leg out and crawl out of the car.

I am fine.
I don’t know why.
I am very grateful. I am lucky.
My small problems wash away like the low tide has come by in my mind.
All that is left are pillars of what is important; my husband, my children, my family, my friends.
What will I do with this gift of time?

Eileen Evan
November 21, 2010