This morning, I'm watching the sun rise above the hill across from my house. The sky is lilac and pale blue, the ground dusted with snow. It's quite beautiful. I can see my husband's truck sitting in the driveway, see the fire hydrant that is across the street from our house. What I can't see is my mini van. My poor, faithful old car. The car I have had for eleven years. The one I was driving home from church last night when I was hit by a police car.
Yes, you read that correctly. Last night, I was hit by a police car.
How it happened is still a mystery to me. I'm the most careful and cautious driver in the world. In the years I've been driving, I've never been pulled over for speeding. I never race through yellow lights or speed to make it through a green. I'm conscientious about pulling over and out of the way when I see emergency vehicles, and have lectured my kids on the importance of doing so over and over again. I'm the annoying driver you get behind when you're in a hurry. The one that is driving the speed limit and slowing when she sees yellow lights.
Yet, somehow I was hit by a police car.
If you're interested in the story, here is how it goes - I was sitting at a red light at a huge intersection less than five miles from my house. Picture two three-lane roads bisected by two lanes of traffic. I was on the two lane road heading west. There was a truck or SUV next to me in the right lane. As per usual, when the light turned, I looked to my left which is the direction cross-traffic would be coming from as I crossed. Everyone had stopped, so I proceeded across the first three lane road, under the light and toward the next three lane road I had to go across. The cross-traffic on this road would be coming from the right, but (of course) was stopped because of the red light. The car to my right was slightly ahead of me (probably due to the fact that I'm a slow driver) and actually sort of above me because we were going up a hill. I pulled up beside him (I only realize now that he was slowing down because he saw a police car speeding toward the intersection), passed him at about ten miles an hour, started into the intersection and saw a police car with flashing lights coming toward me.
The rest, as they say, is history.
By the grace of God my four kids were unscathed. Not a nick, cut or bruise among them. We'll talk about psychological ramifications later.
Anyhow, I swerved and put on my brakes as soon as I saw the police lights. That was when I FINALLY (too little too late) heard sirens. The police car hit the front passenger bumper of my car and carried it (yes, I mean that literally) as it skidded and (according to my son) spun one or two times. I never saw that. My car came rather gently to a stop in the south bound lane of the road I'd been crossing. I asked my kids if they were okay, and then I pulled over to the side and spent about ten minutes looking for my hazard lights.
It seemed like forever that I sat there wondering what to do and thinking, "Oh my goodness! I just got hit by a police car. My kids could have been killed!"
Suddenly, a police officer was at my window. He asked if we were alright and I said, "Yes. It was a green light, wasn't it? I did have a green light?"
I think I must have been in shock. So he says, "Yes, but I'm more concerned about whether or not everyone is okay. ARE YOU OKAY?"
Which in retrospect seems kind of weird. I've been in another accident years ago, and I remember being asked what happened once it was determined that we were fine. Not this time. The next thing I new, police cars were everywhere. Someone was taking pictures of my car, and I was just sitting there wondering what I was supposed to do. I called my husband, but he was in school and didn't get my message. The same officer who'd first approached me handed me a paper that said (in part), "You have the right to remain silent. You have a right not to incriminate yourself."
So, I start thinking, "Am I in trouble? Did I do something wrong? I was coming across at a green light. I never saw or heard the police car. How can this be my fault?"
I called my husband again. Frantic this time because I didn't know if I should fill out and sign the form I'd been given. Then, when I still couldn't reach him, I called my parents, hoping they could give me some insight into what to do (they live about three miles from where the accident happened.). Our phone call was cut short when the officer approached again. He wanted the form, but I told him I wasn't sure what it was for. He said it was a form they always give out after an accident. Which isn't true. Maybe they give them out after an accident involving a police car. It felt to me like he was being snippy about it, but maybe that was my perception because (as I stated before) I was in SHOCK.
Long story short, the police officer in the car that hit me is fine. I'm fine. My kids are fine. My car is totaled. I'm anxious and upset and feel guilty even though I didn't do anything wrong. As I think always happens after something like this, I keep thinking about all the ways I could have prevented it from happening. After tossing and turning for hours, I realized there was absolutely nothing I could have done to keep the accident from happening. I guess, this is as close to a real accident as anything can be.
I've been told the police officer slowed as he approached the intersection. I don't know what he did. I'm sure he didn't mean to plow into my van, but I keep thinking - "how could he not have gone more carefully through that intersection? How could he not have stopped completely before going through such a big intersection?" By the time I saw him, he was going at a pretty good clip, so if he slowed....
Well, I just don't know.
What I do know is that my poor old car is dead, but we are fine. Purely by the grace of God.
And despite everything else, I have that to be truly grateful for.