Jason Starr. His latest novel is The Pack, the start of a new series, published by Penguin/Ace last May. The next book in the Pack series, The Craving, will be published by Penguin/Ace in June, 2012. Find out more at www.jasonstarr.com
JASON STARR: My Near Death Experience
I should have died that day. There really is no logical reason for how I survived the accident and in the years since I’ve relived those horrific moments again and again and, unlike other memories from my childhood, this one doesn’t fade. Every time I think about it, the images get clearer, the details become more precise. Sometimes I feel like it’s happening all over again.
I was almost twelve years old. It was a bright, sunny, fall afternoon in Brooklyn and I’d just come home after a long day at school. My parents, as usual, were away working. I wanted to play Whiffle ball with a friend who lived around the corner, so I got on my bike and headed excitedly toward the corner of the quiet one-way street. My parents had only recently let me ride my bike in the street and having so much freedom made me feel cool and grown up. I imagined in a couple of years being able to bike all over Brooklyn by myself. Maybe I’d even go across the Brooklyn Bridge one day, all the way to Manhattan.
As I approached the corner I noticed that the traffic on the busier two-way street adjacent to my block was backed up all the way up to the next intersection. I should have stopped and waited for the traffic to clear, or turned onto the sidewalk. But I was so excited about biking in the street and playing with my friend that I wasn’t thinking clearly, and I turned the corner at full speed, circumventing the backed-up traffic, and went directly into the oncoming lane. It never occurred to me that there could be traffic coming from that direction.
As soon as I turned, I saw the car. It was a big, wide, four-door car, about twenty yards away, and it was headed right toward me, going at least thirty miles per hour. I remember looking right at the driver—an older, gray haired guy. His eyes widened but he never had a chance to brake. I hit the car practically head on, the front wheel, maybe instinctively, turned slightly to the right. The next moment, when my body was propelled over the front end of the car, seemed to happen in slow motion. I’d recently seen the remake of Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, where Beatty is snatched from his life too soon, and during that moment after the car had hit me, I thought very clearly, Please, God, don’t take me away too soon, don’t take me away too soon.
I wound up on my knees in the middle of the street. I knew something had just hit my head but I wasn’t sure what it was or exactly what had happened. Terrified, I got up and ran home as fast as I could.
The car that had hit me followed. Then the very concerned driver rang my doorbell, wanting to make sure I was okay. His wife—who’d been in the car with him—was next to him and also very concerned. I had bruises on my knees and a bad bump on my head—later I realized a wheel of the bike must have landed on me—but otherwise I was okay. As I was talking to the old couple, someone who’d witnessed the accident brought the remains of my bicycle to my house. I was shocked to see that my bike had been practically totaled.
It began to set in how lucky I was. If I’d turned the corner a couple of seconds later, the car would have slammed into me from the side and I would’ve been wiped out instantly. Hitting the car head-on on with the wheel slightly turned had apparently saved my life as it had caused me to soar over the front end of the car, rather than directly into the windshield. Landing on my knees, rather than my head, had been pure luck.
I guess I’m fortunate that the memory of that afternoon has remained so vivid in my consciousness over the years. Sometimes when things aren’t going so well in my life, I think of how an extra second or two could have changed everything, and my problems never seem quite so bad in comparison.
How about you? What was your scariest near death experience and what effect did/does it have on you?
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