Three Miracles Short

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Three Miracles Short

Chapter One:  State Highway 50 along a 7-mile-long downgrade west of Canon City, Colorado on December 21, 1999, 20 degrees Fahrenheit, -13 degrees Fahrenheit windchill


Carly Watson, age 14

My eyes pop open with an ominous knowledge. I don’t remember falling asleep. The bus feels unsteady. Why are we going so fast? I peer out the window, having to squint because it’s so dark, but I see the mountain zooming by. It’s too close to us. I shake my finger at the window trying to show, Alicia, my seatmate, but she shrugs it off and falls back asleep. I jump out of my seat and immediately feel unstable.

I yell towards the front of the bus, “we are going too fast! Slow down!”

I hear an eerie response, “we can’t slow down, we’ve hit black ice”.

Fear sets in, and I feel needles on my skin. The bus starts to shake as we fishtail all over the road. We swerve one way and then violently get propelled back another way.

I have never experienced this kind of fear. I have no control, the bus was completely out of control, and this unprecedented fear settles in my brain as a permanent resident. I frantically look around for some reassurance, comfort, anything… and I see him. He is smiling and waving me over. I unsteadily lunge across his seatmate, Megean, and I grab his hand. My head is hiding near his knees, and I’m squeezing his hand as if that alone might save our lives.

I look up and he is still smiling and tries to calm me down, “it’s ok, we’ll be ok”.

I stare at our interlocked hands, and my knuckles turn white. I look up once more and then my body is violently thrown from him. Our bus has gone over the edge of a mountainous slope.

As our bus rolls down a 70-foot embankment, I feel my body fly through the air. My head smacks into one side of the bus, which propels me through the air again, and I hit…something else…and then… BLACKNESS.

When I finally “come to” from the crash, I am up and walking around, but I am completely confused. How did my legs start working before my brain or my eyes? Where am I? It’s so dark. I hear screaming.

I look down and see our charter bus with tires in the air… still spinning. We crashed? I am looking down…so clearly, I’m higher up? Where am I?

It is hard to think or see, but I can hear. I hear deathly screams. The screams seem to pierce my soul. I make out someone’s cries, “My leg! My leg! Oh my gosh my leg!” My brain is starting to work. People are hurt. People are hurt very bad. I want to run. The screaming makes me want to run, but before I take off, a friend of mine approaches me. I recognize her… it was Christi, my church friend. She hugs me and asks if I am ok. Can I talk?

“We have to get help,” I bluntly respond. Woah, where did that come from?

I hear myself, I hear her, I hear the screams, but something bigger is taking over my mind and my body, and it had talked. Correction, it had commanded. We have to get help. We have to run. I feel a supernatural presence that I’ve never felt in 14 years of life. It’s pulling me and leading me so intensely that I fully understand the term “out-of-body experience”.

I run away from Christi, and she follows. How am I running this easily? It’s cold. So very cold. I can barely feel the ground beneath me as I keep running…to where? I am not sure.

The cold air has penetrated every extremity, and I am numb. I start slowing down as I realize I had run the wrong way. Instead of running up to the highway, I had run down, and I’m now near a barbed wire fence. Growing up in Texas, I know a barbed wire fence when I see one. The spikes are clear to me, but nothing is beyond this fence. No house, no cows, only darkness. Perhaps, I had run too far in the wrong direction. I feel defeated… until I hear a voice.

I look past the barbed wire fence, and I see an outline of a man standing on the other side. I do not know him, yet his eyes seem familiar. He is tall or at least taller than me, and he isn’t hurt. It cannot be anyone from the bus. We are too far away from the crash site, and why would someone jump a barbed wire fence after surviving a bus crash?  

Where did he come from? How is he on the other side of this fence? The running sensation comes back, and the man looks directly at me, “Carly, you’re going the wrong way. You have to go up”, he speaks to me so matter-of-factly. Like he knew me. Did he say my name out loud? He looked right at me. He knows me! I immediately trust this man. He points to the road above, and my eyes follow. Woah, that’s a long way up. I have to leave now. I have to run. I have to get help.

I don’t speak to the man. Instead, I take off running again. This hill is so steep. I fall, but I immediately get up and keep running. I fall again, and it hurts. I am trying to run, I feel the need to run, but my body cannot do it. The embankment was covered in snow until our bus rolled down it and now it was an icy, slushy mess. My numb arms and hands are taking a beating. Is that cactus? I have scrapes all over me. Even though my whole body is numb, there is a stinging sensation each time I land on a rock, a cactus or the icy ground. I begin to crawl to catch my breath and prevent another bad fall. That works better. I decide to mostly crawl the rest of the way because the falls are taking too much time. I am determined. There is no time to slow down. No time to rest. I have to get help. Nothing else is occupying my mind. I am being pulled. Utilized. For something beyond myself. 

I start to feel flatness. I feel concrete. Is that asphalt? I made it! I am at the road! I deeply exhale and fully register the freezing temps when I see a large cloud of smoke come from my mouth. I prop back on my knees, having still been in the crawling position, and look down at my hands. They are covered in blood. So much blood. Is that my blood? How am I bleeding that bad? I feel like I’m in a movie or a bad dream… WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

The bright headlights sting my eyeballs and pull me back to reality. This is real. I am at the top of a very steep embankment in the mountains of Colorado, and the bus I was riding in moments ago is now mangled at the bottom. Reality is creeping in like an uninvited guest in my brain, and the comfort of my body going into shock is starting to fail me. We crashed. It’s bad. Are people dead?

But, just as quickly as the uninvited guest came, it left. I felt pulled again. I have to get help. There are so many kids down there. I wave my arms in the air trying to flag down a passing car. They can see me, right? No, they can’t. I have to get help. I must walk out in the middle of the highway.

The thought of being hit by a car never crosses my mind. I know I will be safe. Is that a car pulling over? A car is pulling over!! I see a woman get out of her car on the opposite side of the road near the mountain, and I run to her. 

“Our bus crashed, and we need help. There are so many kids down there. So many kids down there. There are so many kids down there.” I frantically exclaim.

I am repeating myself, but I cannot help it. I am ecstatic. I am scared. I am overwhelmed. But I had made it. The woman has a cell phone to her ear. A cell phone! She can call for help! She is calling for help! I want to run back and tell all my friends that help is coming! Help is coming!

I go to run back down the mountain, but someone grabs me. I look around and several cars have stopped and there are more kids on the side of the highway. Some of my friends have made it up and more people have stopped to help.

“You cannot go down there. It’s not safe.” I hear someone talking to me, but it’s hard to focus.

“I am going, my sister is down there!” I yell. “My sister is down there!”

Oh my gosh, my sister is down there. Is she alive? The words had immediately come out to this stranger, but my brain had just caught up…or possibly, it was shutting down.

I am locked in a truck with other teenagers too bloody to recognize, but a girl says my name.

“Megean? Is that you?” I ask.

“Yes, it’s Megean, and my back really hurts. I think it’s broken.” She responds. I don’t know how to make her feel better, and my memory is starting to fade.

“Did you see my sister before making your way up the hill?” I ask.

She shakes her head no. We don't speak for several minutes and all I hear is the other teenager in the truck moaning in pain. There is not an inch on his body without blood, but I’m not sure where the blood is coming from. I want to help him, but I’m afraid and feel helpless.

I am suddenly disoriented and start babbling, “Why are we this truck? Why are we hurt? What’s happening?”

“We were heading home from skiing, Carly, and our bus crashed,” Meagen carefully responds.

“I wasn’t on a bus! I’ve never been skiing!” I almost shout. I am panicking. I am confused. Where am I? Why am I locked in this truck? Where is my sister?

Our truck begins to move. Please don’t crash, please don’t crash, please don’t crash. Why do I feel so unstable? Nothing makes sense, and I start to cry. I want to see my sister. I want to see all my friends and make sure they are ok.

We arrive at a small hospital in Canon City, and I am sitting on a chair in the waiting room. Apparently, this small town has called some type of emergency code because it seems the entire town is awake, in the dead of night, and here helping us. How did I get here, again? My church friends start to trickle in. Most are badly injured.

Alicia is here! She looks dazed, but she is able to walk and most of the blood on her is from other people. I was sitting next to her when we started to fishtail. She informs me that she woke up inside the mangled bus, and the smell of diesel fluid is still trapped in her nose. We crashed. Oh my gosh, where is Kevin? Alicia sits next to me, and I ask if she has seen Kevin, but she shakes her head no. She is starring at my thigh.

“Carly, I think someone needs to look at that, you might need stitches.” I look at the deep, gash on my thigh that doesn’t seem to hurt but looks bad. Then, I see Kyle walk through the automatic doors wearing Meagan’s puffy pink jacket and shorts. I disregard my injuries and run to him.

I ask carefully, “have you seen Keri?”

“Yes, she was loaded on a stretcher and pulled up the hill by a four-wheeler,” he explained. “I tried my best to keep her warm at the crash site.”

Apparently, Kyle sustained very little injuries from the crash and sprang into action when hypothermia and shock tried to attack those trapped at the bottom of the hill. He had torn open luggage so he could use extra clothes and jackets to keep people warm or wrap open wounds. Before the emergency vehicles arrived, Kyle had remained calm for those with very serious injuries around him.

“Did you see Kevin?” I ask. He shakes his head no and turns away. My stomach drops. There were a lot of kids on the bus. He didn’t see everyone.

I see a stretcher out of the corner of my eye. It’s MY SISTER! Oh thank God! I run to her. The hospital staff allows me to follow her to a room, and I do not leave her side. They give me a chair, which is hard to come by in this small hospital that is fully occupied with injured kids. I had passed my friend Christi in the hallway on a similar chair getting stitches in her head by a veterinarian.

I sit next to Keri. She doesn’t look good. Is she going to die? She is all wrapped up with a neck brace and her eyes are closed. One eye is completely swollen shut, and she apparently found the cactus as well. She has scrapes everywhere, and her hair is so matted with blood and cactus that it is sticking straight out on all sides of her head.

I overhear her injuries: broken hip, broken shoulder, broken collarbone, internal bleeding. She will have to be transported to a bigger hospital for surgery. I want to vomit. Is that her arm moving? Her one, good eye opens, she sees me, and her hand is reaching for me. I grab it and she whispers, “I love you” before shutting her eyes again.

I vow to stay by her side for as long as they let me, and I intently watch her chest move up and down all night praying that it doesn’t stop. It's around 3am when someone asks me if I want to call my parents. No, not until I find Kevin. They bring me a phone, and I have no idea how to make this call.

Submitted: May 13, 2022

© Copyright 2023 Carly Maderer. All rights reserved.

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