I was 17. I had two big things happen to me in about a 6 month span. The first event happened in April of that year. My parents were out of town and they sent Grandma and Grandpa Baty to take care of Rhonda, Dave and I for a weekend. I got up on Saturday morning to take my sister to her volunteer job at the Bemidji hospital. The morning was cool and misty; the temp must have been right around 30 degrees. I dropped my sister off without an issue. I then headed for home on our local by-pass. The road I was to travel was a single lane entrance road/ramp. It swooped over the top of highway 2 and then joined it going south. I entered the single lane bridge going about 30-40 mph. The bridge had a slow 50 degree curve to it. As I entered the bridge I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. The back end of my parents van started to slide to the right even though I was turning the wheel slightly to the left. Panic set in. The bridge deck was covered in ice and there was no where for the sliding van to go except into the bridge walls. The back end of the van hit first-grazing the right side of the bridge. Then the back end of the van swung the other way now hitting the left side of the bridge more squarely. I then ricocheted back to the right side of the bridge. That hit caused the van to turn perpendicular to the bridge wall. Believe it or not there was still plenty of speed and momentum still left for one big front end crash. As the van headed directly toward the left side of the bridge I had one thought, I was going to die. I don’t remember if I said anything or not. I just knew that with all the weight of the van and all its momentum I was going to crash through or over the bridge wall and plummet the 30 feet or so onto the road below. With that thought in my head I hit the wall dead on. My head went flying into the steering wheel and snapped back with blood flying like a fountain into the air. The van hit solid, but miraculously (at least to me) it didn’t go through or over the bridge. Instead, it skidded along the wall coming to a stop at the end of the bridge. My pinball ride was over. As I came to a stop I remember vividly one of the rear wheels rolling quickly past me, down the road, through the ditch and over a fence. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that a fire had started from the gas tank being smashed open and the tire-less axle grinding along the pavement. I got out the passenger door quickly, as my door was smashed in. I looked back and saw that the fire was not very big and was being put out by the cool mist. Now more cars were coming behind me. They too were having difficulty slowing down and their cars skidded a little bit. The first car had seen it all happen so the driver was going very slowly. The next car or two also saw the danger and were moving slowly. The lady in the first car jumped out to stay with me.
Somehow/some way they got an ambulance for me. I am not sure how as this was the age of no cell phones. I am guessing someone went to the nearest gas station to call 911. I was only 3 miles from the hospital so I got in fairly quickly. My nose was broken but other than that I was in good shape. They set the nose right away and bandaged it up.
I was glad to survive the accident. It was one, if maybe the only time, where I felt without any doubt, I was going to die. It was just another example how I think God was taking care of me. It seemed like everything could have been much worse. To my knowledge the skids marks are still on the bridge to this day. This incident was harrowing, but nothing as dramatic as what was going to take place 6 months later.
One of my favorite verses:
Psalm 118:17 I will not die: instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done.