Officer Pennington and Friends,
Not gonna lie to you friends, today, was not the best day. But as I’ve said before I started this blog to hold myself accountable to look for the awesome in the world, and even though I had a crappy day…I saw so much awesome. Also, I’m a little traumatized and writing calms me…so here it goes.
The day began with our toddler screaming early in the am. He was sick. He looked super pale, which is hard for him because he’s already the color of raw poultry. He was listless. He’s never listless. He threw up repeatedly for about 4 straight hours. This was the first time he’d ever thrown up. He wasn’t a fan. I wasn’t either.
I felt bad for him but realized in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that big of a deal. The day went on. I took the older kids to church and their school picnic and they had a blast. Then we went to Costco and they had “examples” also known as samples to all other humans. They were super pumped to be there with me as that is a special treat.
On the way back home I realized I needed something that was back by their school. I contemplated on whether or not I should go but decided I was out; it wasn’t that big of a deal, I’d go grab it.
That was a mistake.
As I exited 435 onto Johnson drive the kids and I were talking about our recent Branson vacation and who in the car liked frosting. Yes, we were actually talking about that and for the record is was 3 in favor and 2 against.
The car in front of me turned on their turning signal to make a left hand turn. I slowed down and came to a complete stop, as taking a left hand turn off Johnson drive is no easy task. The car behind me however, didn’t stop. The driver barreled into us going at least 40. The force of her car hitting mine threw my car forward into the one in front of me, still trying to turn. The force of the hit caused her air bag to go off. I’m so grateful mine didn’t, but that gives you an idea of how hard that car hit me.
It was loud, so very loud. It was also, very scary. I heard the screams of our four oldest children. In the immediate aftermath of the impact I turned to see if they were ok. My sunglasses were thrown off my face. I was thrust forward and slammed back on my chair, so I was terrified at what could have happened to them.
As I turned around I saw our four oldest children unsure of what just happened and how they should react. The boys both were trying so hard to keep it together, they didn’t cry, they just said Mommy are you ok?
The girls immediately started crying, especially Fiona, who kept asking me over and over if I was going to be ok. Ellen answered all my questions and nodded her head and then she started to cry too.
Now that I sit here writing this, I know that Fiona and the boys must have been looking at me, which makes sense because we were all talking, and they saw how hard the impact threw me forward. They were scared that their mommy was hurt.
That kills me. It makes me sick to my stomach. But I promise the awesome is coming.
In a matter of what was probably seconds…a man appeared at my window and opened my sliding door. In other circumstances I probably would have gotten out of my car and screamed like he was going to steal my children. But I saw the look of concern in his face. He knew I was in a mini van and likely had kids in the car. He totally ignored me and talked to the kids. He asked them if they had their seat belts on and if any of them were hurt.
The boys responded, Ellen nodded her head and Fiona cried, “can we go home?”. The man then turned his attention to me. “Are you ok mom?”
I can’t remember what I said. I just knew I was not ok. My heart was beating 7,000 miles a minute but I also knew that I didn’t want to scare my kids. All I wanted to do was get each of our kids out of the car and squeeze them and cry. But that was not an option so I tried to appear calm. I opened my door and climbed in the back seat and this man, this stranger stood beside the car door on this busy road and helped me care for my kids.
Before I knew it the cops, a fire truck and an ambulance were on site. They must have asked this man to leave, as he wasn’t involved in the accident. Before I got a chance to thank him or ask him his name, he was gone.
My awesome starts with this guy. He was alone in a truck. He was headed the opposite direction on Johnson drive. He saw the crash and immediately got out of his car and checked on our kids. Sir, I don’t know your name but I am grateful to you. You helped me feel calm in a moment of sheer and utter panic. You are a special kind of awesome and the world needs more people like you. I will pray for you tonight and celebrate the heck out of your awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
My next awesome is with the fire fighter who came to my car. A young man in all his fire gear came to my window and looked in the car and said “oh my!” Then he radioed “we have a lot of children in this vehicle.”
Not gonna lie, that freaked me out. He could see I was about to lose it, so he turned his attention to the kids. He asked them if they were ok and if they were buckled, everything standard procedure. Then he said he’d be right back.
When he came back he had fire fighter stickers and fire fighter hats for the kids. Red for the boys and pink for the girls. They were so excited and immediately that fear they had on their faces turned to joy and they had started to forget about that crazy crash just minutes before.
To be honest, I have always felt there was a special place in Heaven for police officers and fire fighters (and nurses too). Today just solidified those feelings.
First of all, these are people who risk their lives everyday. Everyday. They are often treated with disrespect and in the insane world we live in, have to be nervous every time they approach a car or go out on a call. What will they be met with? I imagine that their kids, their husbands and wives say a silent prayer every time they leave the house and every time they return back home.
It was 95 degrees out today. They could have been annoyed that they had to stand on a busy road on a hot day to deal with a 3 vehicle accident. They didn’t have to go out of their way to make four scared little kids feel better. But. They. Did. They rocked the awesome so hard today for me and our kiddos that I can’t ever thank them enough. On a side note…all four of our kids went to bed tonight with those hats on or near their bed.
That brings me to Officer Pennington. She was the first person, other than the stranger who opened my sliding door and the occupants of the car in front of me that I saw immediately after the crash. She had a warm smile and a way about her that put me at ease. She could tell I was losing my sh** a little bit on the inside but was trying to keep it together on the inside. She handled me accordingly.
When I couldn’t find my insurance card, she was patient and told me to keep looking while she did something else. She gave the kids a police sticker the second she saw them in the car and they thought that was pretty darn awesome.
After they filed the accident report and issued a citation to the driver that ran into me, we were told we could leave. At that point Officer Pennington came up to our car and offered our kids packages of Royals baseball cards. All four of them screeched in delight and named off people they hoped were in their pack.
Then, she turned to me, “are you alright mom” she said with all the tenderness of someone who was also a mom she could see was trying to hold it together. I couldn’t help but cry a little. I wanted to get out of the car and hug her and I’m sitting here mad right now that I didn’t.
She made a horrible and scary situation as quick and painless as possible and most importantly she made our kids feel safe. She was nothing short of awesome. The best kind of awesome and I will make sure her boss knows just how awesome she was even if I have to drive to her precinct to do it.
I have no idea why this happened today.
I’ve played every possible scenario out in my head. Why didn’t I just go home after Costco? If I had, this could have been avoided.
What if’s aren’t helpful in any capacity. I was meant to be on the road when I was I suppose. I don’t really know why. I guess maybe so I could encounter the awesome of a total stranger, a firefighter and a cop, all heroes in my eyes.
Maybe it was so our kids could see first hand what we have been telling them since they were old enough to understand. Cops and fire fighters are good people who risk their lives to save others. They are heroes and we should respect them. Sad that this is something we have to explain to people these days, but that’s the world we live in now. I guess this might have happened so they could learn that lesson first hand. They saw their heroism and their awesomeness today first hand and it makes what we tell them all the more real.
Maybe this happened because I needed a reminder of just how grateful I should be to be alive. How grateful I should be to be a mom to five of the most spectacular children (if I do say so myself) in the whole entire world. Well, lesson learned.
I don’t know why the person behind me didn’t stop. I don’t know if they were on their phone or changing the radio station or taking a drink of water. But I can’t help but wonder. I was at a complete stop. Something prevented her from stopping. So maybe this happened so I could be reminded to never drive distracted. If you are reading this, I hope it’s a reminder to you too. Not be on your phone while driving. Ever. I know how easy it is, I know what a distraction it can be. I know how busy you all are. Just think of four sweet little kids all 7 or under and a mother of five in a car driving along talking about frosting or no frosting and how this story could have ended differently.
The fact of the matter is that I may not ever truly know why this happened. But I am trying to see the good in this instead of focusing on the scary and the negatives or the inconvenience this will be to our family.
My children are ok. Besides a tense body and a sore neck, I am ok.
Another awesome, perhaps the most important awesome of my story is GOD. GOD was with us in that moment, I am sure of it. I have an incredible amount of gratitude to GOD that we are all ok and that no one else was hurt.
Finally, today is Grandma Elizabeth Claerhout’s birthday. When I woke up today Bryan told me that. Grandma was one of his favorite people and one of mine as well. When I started dating Bryan she was the most welcoming and kind woman and immediately made me feel like I was important and special. She always told me she loved me. I appreciated that more than she knew. I loved her too. We’d visit her and she’d drink her beer and we’d eat her chip chocolate chip cookies and listen to her stories and she always made us smile. She had a great laugh, the best laugh. She was a whole different kind of awesome.
When I saw Bryan after the accident, he said, “I can’t help but think that Grandma was with you today.” I just hugged him and cried because I knew he was right.
I believe in guardian angels and I do believe the people we love that have passed on to Heaven pray to GOD on our behalf. I believe, today, on her birthday, Grandma Elizabeth asked GOD to keep us safe. I am so grateful and wish she and I and her grandson could crack open a beer and laugh.
But I will settle for a boatload of gratitude and lots of prayers offered up to her watchful eye and to GOD for keeping us all safe.
May GOD keep all of you safe too.
To end this story with a smile. Here is Finley with his fire hat on!