With each passing day since the wreck, the 42-year-old woman's two black eyes are a little less visible, although she still has the staples in the back of her head.
She didn't really want to be identified in my column, so I asked what name we could make up for her. “What's your middle name?” I asked.
“LeAnn,” she replied.
“How about we call you LeAnn?” She said that would be fine, although, she figured, people would know it's her. Everyone in town seems to know about her wreck, LeAnn said. Either on the way to the hospital or just after arriving ? LeAnn can't remember which ? she was getting texts of concern from friends who had apparently seen pictures of her wrecked car on Facebook and recognized it as LeAnn's.
When you're fairly comfortable, don't have too many things going wrong and have years of consecutive danger-free or illness-free days, you can take a lot for granted. We all do. Most people probably don't get up in the morning thinking, “well golly, this might be the day I get in a bad wreck” or “this might be the day I get murdered” or “this might be the day I drop dead.” You just kind of assume one day will be like that next.
LeAnn certainly didn't think she'd get in a wreck when she got up that Thursday morning.
“No, not at all,” LeAnn said.
LeAnn got off work in the afternoon and drove her Nissan Altima to a day care to pick up her 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter. LeAnn was driving home and stopped in the left lane of a four-lane road to make a left turn, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear.
Looking into her car's rear view mirror, LeAnn saw an awful sight. A small SUV was approaching from behind, moving fast; the driver was making no effort to stop.
“I just kind of froze up,” LeAnn said. “The only thing I could think to do was honk my horn. I was frozen. I couldn't do anything. I remember just being thrown forward. It was like it was in slow motion, but it was fast.”
An object from the back seat flew forward and hit the back of her head, causing a cut. A cup of iced tea from Chicken Express spilled onto her.
LeAnn coasted to the side and stopped and looked back at her granddaughter, who was strapped into an infant seat. The little girl started crying.
“It was the worst thing I've ever experienced in my life,” LeAnn said.
The other driver, a teenage girl, got out of her SUV and started “screaming at the top of her lungs,” LeAnn said.
LeAnn felt something wet on the back of her head and thought it was the tea. She realized it was blood.
Her husband and mother arrived, and her husband drove LeAnn to the hospital.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) was a bad day,” LeAnn said. “I was crying all day long.” That was because she was trying to deal with the “business” end of the wreck ? insurance, auto finance, car rental. She was told a rental car wouldn't be ready until Thursday.
“God was looking after us for sure,” LeAnn said. “I could've been dealing with a lot more than that. In the blink of an eye, it's that quick … it's how fast stuff happens.”
She's thought about the scenarios that [begin ital]could[end ital] have happened ? but didn't. “It scares you to death,” she said.
LeAnn said the wreck has been a life-changing experience. “It makes you appreciate everything, every moment,” LeAnn said. “It can be taken away so fast. The car ? none of that matters. It's like … so many emotions. You're thankful and happy nothing worse happened. There's guilt ...”
Guilt, when the wreck wasn't her fault? What if she'd gotten on the road five seconds earlier or five seconds later? What if “I'd have done this different or I'd have done that different? It really makes you think.”
The phone on LeAnn's desk rang. “Enterprise! Yay!” LeAnn said, looking at the caller ID. “ … Yes … this is her … oh, that would be wonderful!”
Her rental car was ready.
LeAnn was clearly emotional talking about the wreck and its aftermath, and I asked her if I was causing her trauma by asking her about it.
“No, actually it's good to talk about it,” LeAnn said.