Today is What I Have


Emily Fleming

Experiencing a wreck can be both physically and emotionally damaging (Photo courtesy of Emily Fleming).

To be honest, I cannot remember anything from the actual wreck itself. All I know is that even the thought of being in a car makes me want to hyperventilate, curl up in a ball, and cry in a corner. 

Flashback to June 1, 2019, the first day of summer. My friend Madi and I were just spending the weekend together, as usual. My mother was out of town so I was just staying with her. We went to Woodruff Road to get a nice lunch then headed to our other friend Daniel’s house. While we were there, we took the time to hang out and listen to music, until we decided to go for a swim. 

When we left, nobody expected anything out of the ordinary. The light flashed yellow then red and I turned left. After that point, it was almost like waking up from a dream. I ‘woke up’ looking straight down with my arm completely burning and every part of my body aching. I said that we needed to get out, but little did I know my friends were both trapped. As I looked over, I saw Madi covered in blood and realized the passenger door was crushed in on her leg. 

I needed to get out. Several people were gathering around the car, calling 911 and asking us questions. I panicked and stepped away from the situation with a random lady trying to comfort me as I cried my eyes out. 

For the next nine hours, I waited in the hospital, knowing nothing about what was happening with my friends. Several of our other friends showed up to visit us, but we were unable to see them and had no idea  what was going on.

Fortunately, Madi just had to have a few stitches. She could barely walk, and I needed to help her do everyday tasks. This broke my heart knowing that I could have prevented her pain. 

With this tearing away at me, I had to move on before the guilt killed me itself. It took me several months to finally start driving again, but even when I did drive, every last car that passed caused fear deep down inside of me. All I could see was the possibilities of what could happen and the wrecks that I could be in. 

Recently I attended the BMW Teen Driving School and learned to face my fears and anxieties while on the road. In this class, I learned defensive driving in real life situations. I learned how to really brake going at top speeds, emergency lane changing in case of an accident ahead of me, and how to keep control of the car while hydroplaning. This has ended most of the anxiety attacks and breakdowns that occur while I have to drive to school, work, or anywhere else I need to be.

I miss you. Thank you so much for taking care of me this weekend. It means so much to me and I’m so thankful to have a friend like you. I love you with all my heart and I’m so glad I took this. I would not want you to be in my place at all. I’m so thankful that you’re okay and feeling better. This brought us closer and you staying with me through it means the world. Staying at the hospital for so many hours and helping me get up and move, wrapping my leg, holding my face telling me you love me, kissing me forehead, making me laugh, playing card games, helping me shower, just being there for me, and telling me it is going to be okay. I’m lucky to have met you, grown close with you, and have you as a best friend. Everyone needs someone like you in their lives. Everyone needs an Emily Fleming and I’m so glad to have mine.”

— Madi James

Although physical injuries can be a huge part of a wreck, the emotional distress they can cause can be just as bad if not worse. Shock, fear, disbelief, and anxiety can all occur after a wreck. As time goes on, getting over the wreck becomes easier and driving begins to become natural again.

“[My wreck] happened on Friday the thirteenth. I’m not superstitious, but man was that a weird coincidence. I felt, and still occasionally feel, emotionally exhausted. I’m extremely glad that I survived but I’ll occasionally have flashbacks to [the] incident and start to break down emotionally. I’ll cry, feel guilty, and sometimes I’ll just not feel anything at all,” said former Bengal Beat staff member Ethan Lamont.

Some people are not affected as emotionally by a wreck but are mostly set back because of physical injuries. They may be disabled and not be able to walk or live life the way that they used to. This can last a lifetime or may only be temporary. 

“My wreck was about a year and a half ago. It took me a month and a half to start driving again, but that’s only because the doctors said I shouldn’t drive with my collarbone broken. The only thing that gives me anxiety while driving is when I see a car accident because mine was supposed to be deadly but I made it out alive. So, I just hope that everyone involved is okay,” said senior Cade Wood.

Others have to deal with the emotions through counseling or a driving school like I did. Counseling can help to deal with the emotional aftermath after medical treatment is dealt for physical injuries. Seeking a professional for psychological issues allows them to examine you and find out what is really wrong and bring your life back to normal. 

“I started going to counseling to deal with these feelings, and it’s been really helpful. My counselor makes sure I’m taking basic care of myself. We have to work on a couple of things because I’ve been struggling to sleep and feel motivated, but I think it’s been really productive,” added Lamont.

Usually, anyone involved in a wreck learns lifelong lessons about driving and the importance of  being safe. These people can learn to value life instead of taking it for granted. A wreck can change a person for the better in terms of safety and understanding how important their life is.

“I just want everyone to know that driving can be really fun, but you shouldn’t do stupid things while driving because that could cost your life,” added Wood.