The year was 1995. It was a Saturday night in October. I was a freshman in college, working nights at the new movie theatre across town. I was the box office closer which meant late nights counting cash and closing out all the computer systems. I loved it!
I usually began my trek home around 1:00 a.m. Normally it was a quiet ride home. There’s not a lot of traffic at 1:00 a.m. any night of the week – bars don’t close until 2:00, so I had a good hour before late night drivers got on the road. I would blast whatever new CD I had and sing like a rock star all the way home. The drive began like any other night. My route was the cross-town freeway, then through downtown to the Extension. I made it off of the freeway and was beginning the quick trip through downtown.
I couldn’t believe I was hitting all the green lights – that never happened. I saw a small black sports car driving perpendicular to me on one of the cross streets. I remember thinking, “Whoa, they are driving fast!” …Then I remember thinking, “That car is going to hit me.” I don’t have any recollection of the next 5 - 7 minutes. As hard as I try – it’s just…black. The first thing I remember before coming to was a bright flash of light. The best I have ever come to putting it in to words is this: Remember Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner? Well, when the Roadrunner would take off super fast you would see a blur of color/light coming off the back of him. Sort of like a visual of his speed.
I saw that streak of light to my left and then I came to. There was a man at my driver side door. He was knocking on the window - presumably trying to get me to wake me up. He opened my driver side door, picked me up, and carried me across the street to a little patch of grass. He told me to wait there and that everything would be alright. He asked me about my parents.
My parents received a phone call from this man. He told my father, that I had been in a car accident, but that I was alive, and okay. He told him the intersection where I was and that he needed to come and get me. After the pone call he came back over to me and said, “I have to go now. Your parents will be here soon. It’s going to be okay.” I was in shock. I was bleeding and shaking and confused. I thanked him for helping me and asked him his name. He replied, “Rene” and then…he was gone.
My parents arrived approximately the same time that the police arrived. My dad worked for the police department, so he knew the officers that were “on scene”. They asked how he knew I had been in an accident. He simply said, “One of the witnesses called me.”
Things were chaotic. The driver of the other car was drunk and stumbling around shouting. There were police officers everywhere and paramedics surrounding me. There were a few bystanders and some other cars that had pulled over to offer help. I was taken to the hospital to check out the damages.
I was lucky, they say. I suffered burns on my hands and chest, swollen and bruised knees, stomach and neck, and a separated left shoulder – which they had to pop back in to place at the hospital. It could have been worse though – that’s what they kept saying.
My life went on from there for a few days with no real thought of this “Rene” person. I had recounted my story to my parents. We pieced a time line together with the events of the evening. We were all so thankful that this man had come to my aide. Being that my dad worked for the police department, we received rather quickly the full reports and witness accounts of the accident. There were three witnesses. Each report gave roughly the same account:
“The victim crawled out of the driver’s side window and walked to the southwest corner of the intersection.” Noted by officer: Driver side door was jammed shut; would not open.
I was speechless. This was NOT what happened. No where in the report was “Rene” mentioned. He was not a witness. He was not seen by any other individual at the scene. Each witness claimed that I had, on my own, gotten out of my car and walked (on my own) to the corner. Most people (my parents included) would probably think that I was in shock and not remembering correctly…except for that phone call. Who called my parents?
My dad and I did some investigating, but came up with nothing. Rene was nowhere to be found.
I believe Rene was an angel, sent by God, to comfort me at a desperate moment in my life with a message of hope: “It’s going to be okay.” I had a long road of physical and emotional healing ahead. I wouldn’t drive again for months. I frequently woke up terrified in the middle of the night with visions of that black car zooming toward me. I had months of physical pain and therapy. But in all of that, I also had hope. Hope that God must have something more for me to do here. Hope that in the midst of terrible, there is often awesome. I was only 18, but this moment would significantly shape my adulthood.
For further reading: Psalm 121