Everything can change in an instant

The most amazing thing about life is how normal it can become.

One minute, I was driving home, thinking about the sectional baseball game I’d just witnessed. Opening lines to the eventual story were running through the mind as my car was rolling down that Bascom road. It was just another day, another game, another story.

A normal evening in a normal life.

And then it wasn’t.

First came the noise, then the impact.

Then I blacked out for a few minutes. I only know this because it seemed like the ambulance was there to get me 20 seconds later.

In the ambulance, answering questions about who I was, where I was going, who the President was.

Suddenly, the story I had in my head didn’t seem so important.

It was a while before a medic clued me into what had happened. I had run a stop sign, and my car was plowed into by a semi truck. My vehicle was hit on the passenger side, and was all but destroyed.

Due to luck (though some callers have attributed it to a higher power looking out for me), I’m still here. Because the impact was on the passenger side, I got almost none of the blow, and my injuries were relatively minor. I walked out of the hospital four hours later.

It didn’t sink in until a day later just how bad the accident was. For the first time in my nine years as a writer here, I made the front page of The Advertiser-Tribune. I’ll be fine with staying on the sports page from now on.

It’s been 10 days, but I’m still angry with myself. I’d prided myself on not texting while driving, but what I was doing – not putting the road first – was just as bad. No matter how many times I’d driven that road, I was still in danger because my mind wasn’t where it should have been.

Lucky for me, or by the grace of God, I didn’t pay for my carelessness with my life.

But I easily could have. So, for that matter, could someone else.

If there’s a positive to this whole thing, perhaps it’s a renewed appreciation for the people around me. The people at The A-T have been very supportive, encouraging me – hell, forcing me – to put my recovery first. A special thanks goes out to co-workers Tony Maluso, Rob Weaver and Jill Gosche, who were all with me in the hospital. Jill especially has my gratitude both for her help, and her insistence I not return to work after leaving the hospital.

To my friends and readers who contacted me after the accident, thank you too. My cynical nature has been severely tested by all the people who sent me a note, or called, or tweeted, just to let me know they were in my corner.

And to my family and my best friend, well, there are no words for what you’ve done for me.

As for the future, I don’t know.

I started working here in 2004. It’s been like riding a train. As I’ve gotten more and more into things, the train has started to go faster.

Stories. Deadlines. Pages. Columns.

I love riding the train. I always have, and the faster it goes, the more I enjoy it.

But a few days ago, my train went off the tracks.

It didn’t take me with it, though.

There’s a lesson here.

Life may seem normal, but it isn’t. Go too fast, and you may not only miss it, you may lose it.

After the last 10 days, I’m certain of one thing:

It’s worth slowing down for.