A legacy is something you leave behind after you’ve left this world. On April 14, 1973, I met a drunk driver head-on. I had just left work for the night, watching the children as their parents worked out at the spa. It was around 9:30 that night that I approached the Leaf River Bridge in Petal, Mississippi.
I graduated from high school at the age of 16. I skipped a couple of grades, so I was always the youngest student in all of my classes. I thought I was grown and capable of making my own decisions about my life. I was in love and determined to get married. My mother pleaded with me. She knew I was too young, but my will was stronger than her will. Mike and I got married in June 1971.
I won’t lie and say it was easy. Mike was 19 and still just a kid too. We fought, made up and fought again. We loved each other, we just needed to grow up. Mike worked with his dad building houses and I worked at the only spa in town. It was a luxury spa complete with indoor pool, saunas, work-out rooms, health food bar and nursery for the children. I worked a split shift, four hours in the early morning and four hours each night. When I left work on April 14, I was headed to the next town to meet Mike. He had been shooting in a billiard tournament all week.
I had just learned that I was three months pregnant. This was very exciting news to me because my womb was tiled downward and the likelihood of pregnancy was very slim. I had been doing exercises for a year in an attempt to prepare my womb in case I should get pregnant.
It was a starless night that Friday as I approached the bridge. I will never know if I had seen the car about to hit me head-on at 65 miles-per-hour. I don’t remember the accident. My doctors told me it was my mind’s way of protecting me. The horror of seeing a car coming straight at me on the bridge was more than I could safely deal with, so I blocked it out.
The man was traveling too fast as he approached the bridge from the opposite end. He realized he was going to hit the car in front of him, so he gunned his engine and passed the car. That is when he saw me. It was too late. He slammed into my Ford Fairlane so hard that he pushed my car 800 yards off the bridge and down an embankment. My car came to a stop, dangling over the river. I was unconscious with the car’s engine sitting in my lap, pinning me to the seat.
I have no way of knowing how long I had been there when a motorist saw the wreck from a access road parallel to where my car had come to rest. The man in the car was an off-duty policeman. He had his wife and two of his three young sons with him. They were returning home after visiting relatives that night. He told his wife he was going to pull over and walk down the embankment from his side and see if anyone was still in the wrecked cars. My mother asked him to let someone else handle the accident, but he insisted.
“It’s Barbara. Oh my God, it’s Barbara,” my dad yelled back to my mom. He got to me first after tumbling down the embankment on his side, wading the water and climbing up the embankment on my side. My five-foot, two-inch tall mother must have crawled to get to me.
There was no jaws of life back in those days. My dad flagged down another vehicle and enlisted the help of two more men to break the seat and slide me out from under the car’s motor. When the ambulance arrived, my mother rode with me. The drunk was riding in the same ambulance. At that point, no one knew whose fault the accident had been. The drunk wasn’t talking and I was not able.
My mother told me weeks later that the drunk threw up in the ambulance. That’s when they knew he had been heavily drinking. I was in intensive care for three weeks. The doctors told Mike and my parents that I had a two-percent chance of making it. My unborn daughter was given no chance at all. If I did make, they said I would most certainly have brain damage. That is still debatable.
Please come back and read part two. If you have never seen a miracle, you will want to read what happened to me.