A Drunk Drivers Legacy: Part One

McLain Leaf River Bridge

McLain Leaf River Bridge (Photo credit: cmh2315fl)

Fetus at 18 weeks after fertilization 3D Pregn...

Fetus at 18 weeks after fertilization 3D Pregnancy (Image from gestational age of 20 weeks). Retrieved 2007-08-28. A rotatable 3D version of this photo is available here, and a sketch is available here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This map shows the incorporated and unincorpor...

This map shows the incorporated and unincorporated areas in Forrest County, Mississippi, highlighting Petal in red. It was created with a custom script with US Census Bureau data and modified with Inkscape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.


17 thoughts on “A Drunk Drivers Legacy: Part One

  1. OMG… This is almost unbelievable… It is shocking to read something like this happened to you and your family. I know cars and can see the Fairlane in my mind. Back then, when cars collided, it was tank steel vs. tank steel. No crumple zone whatsoever. Something did happen for you to have survived…

    • True, Koji. God had a plan for me and my daughter, else we would never have survived. I think back to the pain I’ve lived through and marvel that I didn’t beg to be shot and put out of my misery. I’ve been through so much in my life, but it is nothing compared to what many other people have endured. Thanks for caring enough to read my story. God bless.

  2. Pingback: A Drunk Driver’s Legacy: Part Two | Common Sense in an uncommon world

  3. Reading your story, I can see how lucky you are, …we have a massive problem with drink and drug-influenced driving here too and I have heard too many tragedies. I am glad God protected you that day, and gave you the strength to tell this account.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I guess drunk or impaired driving is a problem everywhere people drive. They just don’t have the judgement to realize a car or truck is a danger piece of equipment.


  4. What a story you lived to tell about. There was a recent post I reblogged from Chatter Master’s site on her receiving a phone call at two in the morning that a friend was in an accident from drinking and driving. It brought back a memory I had of three of my friends, one was my H.S. prom date, being killed in an auto accident after being out at a pizza parlor. The rumor was they had been drinking, who can remember through all the grief. Thank God you’re alive to tell this story, it leaves me silent for all the needless things that happen because… Paulette

    • Millions have been affected by drunk drivers. I often wonder “what if…” but I don’t dwell on it. I know that drunk drivers who kill and maim people have to live with what they’ve done, so it isn’t pleasant for them either. If only we can make people understand how much is at stake, maybe we can influence them to designate a driver for the night. Thanks so much for reading.

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