GUEST COLUMN: ‘Oh—that’s a truck’
By Miguel A. Cabello Jr.
Bridge guest columnist
Published March 25, 2021
[Editor’s note: This article was originally written for adjunct faculty member Deena Garza’s English 1301 course on Sept. 23, 2019.]
It’s quite strange what your mind can think of when you’re so close to death. For me, that thought was, “Oh—that’s a truck.” The day was Sept. 11, 2019, and as usual, I was headed to school. As for my mother, she was going to have a typical day at the office.
“Hurry up, Mikey; if you take this long getting ready, school will be let out for the summer,” my mom said with that classic motherly sarcasm.
With a rehearsed tone I said, “Ha ha…very funny… I’ll have you know I’m already ready.” I felt proud saying those words because once they greeted my mother’s ears, she looked surprised, then satisfied with the response. With a warm inviting smile, she opened the door and waited for me in the car. Little did I know life was about to teach me a lesson I would never forget.
In the car, my mother and I prayed, “Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit. Thank you, Virgin Mary, for taking care of us last night as we slept … Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Amen.” That’s our mother/son daily routine. As soon as we get into the car, we pray and thank the Lord for what He has and hasn’t given us; afterward, we turn on the radio and talk about what we are listening to.
We decided to turn on the radio in hopes to hear the respective silence for all of the lives that were taken on 9/11. Instead, what we heard was an overly peppy disk jockey saying, “Gooodd Morrnningggg Americaaa!” Instinctively, both of us said, “Change it.” Laughing at what had occurred, I grabbed my mom’s phone and decided to play some classical music.
“Mikey, stop looking through my phone; I want to show you something,” my mom said. While in the passenger seat, my mom, showed me how to correctly turn the steering wheel, look both ways when merging into a lane and other basic driving maneuvers.
At this point, we were between Lake Casa Blanca and some weird golf course that never seemed to grow grass correctly. I never really liked that golf course; it just left large patches of grass to wither away in the heat, but, then again, I don’t like golfing in Laredo, so who am I to complain? In an almost frustrated tone, my mom said, “Man, this traffic is moving just as fast as a snail.”
Unknown to us, death was waiting for us. Thinking to myself, I wondered, “What’s taking so long?”
It was then when death began walking toward us. In a panicked but loving tone, my mom said, “Mikey, I want you to know I love you.”
Death sprinted toward us then. In a confused tone I said, “What do—” but before I could finish that sentence, death was barreling toward us with a speed that surpassed anything imaginable; the only thing I could think was, “Oh—that’s a truck.” We closed our eyes and waited for death to take us both.
What followed next will probably be the last thing I will remember if I ever get Alzheimer’s. As the 18-wheeler hit us and some other mystery object, it was like a thousand orchestras played out of sync and out of tune; the song they had decided to play was shattering glass, symphony number bending metal.
When I had first seen the truck and waited for death, I wished for a painless one, but at that moment, I realized that life has a twisted sense of humor and it can never be appeased.
When I opened my eyes, we were upside-down, well—my mom was—I was against the door covered in glass. Looking up at my mom she was burnt on her leg? her arm? her thigh?—I don’t know. Just for a moment, I couldn’t recognize my own mother; she was a mixture of burns, cuts, and blood; goodness, so much blood.
I soon saw thick white smoke coming out of the vents and at that moment I knew if I didn’t do something we would suffocate. I tried looking for a way out … nothing, tried opening a door … too heavy, tried calling 911—THEY DIDN’T ANSWER! Just our luck, we were going to die not a peaceful death but rather, in a metal coffin that smelled as if copper and sulfur had a baby. Just as hope was fading, the trunk was opening.
My mom, still stuck, told me to go and save myself and that she’ll be right behind me. I knew it was a lie but went anyway because—well—that’s the only thing I could hold onto, my mother’s words. A classmate of mine, who was driving by, happened to see the accident and stopped to help us.
What happened next was all a blur, but what I remember was going into shock and laughing uncontrollably. Then, a nurse, asking me many questions like, “What’s your name?” “What happened?” “Where does it hurt?” You know, generic car crash questions.
I don’t remember going into the ambulance or my mom getting out of the car, but apparently, my mom asked for her laptop so she could do her work. At first, I thought this was too funny but in writing this, she was probably in shock too.
We were sent to our respective trauma rooms and before I knew it, people from every corner of Laredo were visiting us. Most people were with my mom, but I didn’t care, as she was more injured than me. Most importantly, we lived to fight another day and that’s what mattered to me.
I want to say a special thanks to everyone who responded to the car crash because without them my mom and I wouldn’t be on Earth telling our tale of survival. I also want to say a special thanks to the Yarrington family, you stopped and helped us and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.
I also want to say I am sorry; sorry for the mystery object. You were not just a mystery object, you were a car carrying a father; you took the brunt of the blow, and because of it, left your son behind. I wish everyone could have survived but sadly, life doesn’t pick favorites.
The car crash made me realize two things that are essential to live a full and complete life. The first realization: life doesn’t care about you and would much rather you be in a hole. However, God and many other people do care that you are alive. It is this simple realization that makes life worth living.
The second realization: life is too short to waste. Every decision you make, make it in thought. I don’t know what will come next in life, but what I do know is that I will live a good and honest one.