Gravel spit from under the wheels of the big Ford LTD as I tore out of the driveway and headed for home. Mom’s voice echoed in my head. “We cannot be late this evening. You must be home by six.” Again I’d stayed too long at my friend’s house.
I’d been barreling along the country lane no more than a minute when a soft voice spoke into my ear, “Pull over and put on your seatbelt.”
Startled, I glanced around. There was no one else in the car. I thought, “I haven’t got time to pull over.” It always took a full ten minutes to drive from Kathy’s house to home – if there were no farm vehicles on the roads – and I’d left Kathy’s at 5:52. Rounding a bend, I drove on.
The voice spoke again. A little louder. A bit more forceful. “Pull Over And Put On Your Seatbelt.”
By then I’d guessed the mysterious voice belonged to God. Yet, while my sixteen-year-old mind pondered why He should be talking to me, I kept traveling.
The final time, the voice screamed at me. “PULL OVER AND PUT ON YOUR SEATBELT.”
That got my attention. Immediately, I veered to the shoulder and stopped. When my lap belt was securely fastened, I continued my race for home.
A quarter-mile from my destination, the road curved left before plunging down a hill. In the straight stretch before the curve, I picked up speed. The car began drifting toward the shoulder. When its right wheels hit gravel, I didn’t just ease back into the lane as an experienced driver would. Instead I panicked and slammed on the brakes, locking them. The speedometer read ‘65’ as I missed the curve and plunged straight into Mrs Thompson’s mailbox post, sending the box flying up over the car. A stout cherry tree in the front yard stopped my momentum. Instantly.
Shaken, I stared at the steering wheel – two inches from my face. The dash was only a foot away. Too close.
Mrs Thompson ran toward the car. “Oh, dear. Are you okay?”
“I think so,” I answered. Opening the door only six inches, I squeezed my skinny, adolescent body through the gap. I wobbled around the mangled car and tree, supported by Mrs Thompson’s trembling arms. The radiator – what was left of it – was steaming. And that heavy LTD had a huge V-shaped space where the engine should have been.
In the house, I tearfully phoned home.
Of course the evening’s plans were abandoned. At the hospital, X-rays revealed no fractures. I had whiplash, a small cut on my forehead and severe seat belt burns across my abdomen. We all thanked God I wasn’t hurt worse.
In the morning, a sheriff deputy came to see me. He began his questioning. “How fast were you going when you hit that tree?”
“Sixty-five.” No reason to lie about it. I knew I’d been speeding. So did he.
But what the officer said next convinced me to start taking the privilege of driving seriously. And I learned why God had spoken to me.
“Young lady, I’m going to tell you what you were fortunate to avoid. If you had been in a smaller, lighter vehicle, you’d have been accordioned inside and most likely crushed.” He paused to let his words take effect. “At that speed, if the mailbox had come through the windshield, it probably would have taken your head off.
My eyes widened and tears stung them.
“If you’d missed the tree and continued across the yard, you would’ve gone airborne over the river. And ...” He paused again, to ensure he had my attention.
Oh, yes. I heard him clearly. By then I was bawling. And trembling.
“ ... if you hadn’t had your seatbelt on, you would’ve been ejected through the windshield and slammed into the tree at high velocity. If the impact didn’t kill you, you’d have been so badly injured, you may have wished it had.”
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