I should not be here, writing this. In 1998, at 23 years old, I was hit by a car at this intersection in New Orleans and but for the grace of God I did not die. I jumped. At the last second. And I don't know why. In the middle of the day my partner (just "boyfriend" at the time, having dated less than 6 months; it's now been more than 13 years) and I were crossing the street. We had been on vacation at his family's place in Pensacola Beach, Florida, and then finished up the week with a crazy weekend in New Orleans. I've had crazy weekends in Nola before-one in 1996 that gave me freedom in ways that aren't appropriate for mention here, one in 1997 that confirmed the relationship I was in at the time was doomed, and then this trip.
We were coming back from a day trip to the Garden District. We were walking up Peters Street to find a place for lunch, and decided to cross the street at Decatur/St. Louis to go to the Hard Rock Cafe. As we crossed the street, a drunk driver hit me. I saw it all happen in slow motion. She was driving a green Beretta (ironic, given that was what my ex from 1997 drove) and as I crossed the street, with my partner a few paces ahead, she took a left turn and hit me full on. At the very last second, I jumped. She was drunk, and she didn't stop. She drove on for more than 10 feet. If I hadn't jumped, she would have run me over and I would not be alive today. That fact was almost instantly imprinted on my mind. If I hadn't jumped, I would be dead.
But I jumped. And so I ended up on the hood of her car instead of under her tires. What I will never forget, as long as I am lucky to live, is the expression on her face when she hit me. She was not remorseful, she was not surprised-she laughed. She and her drunk friend in the passenger seat laughed as I landed on the hood of her car. How do I know she was drunk? Because it was obvious, to me. Because I saw her runny eyes through the windshield. In the instant that took an eternity, as I fell onto her car, I made eye contact and saw that there was no comprehension behind her gaze.
And since this was the middle of the day, there were dozens of people watching this all play out, including my partner, whose reaction I can only imagine with horror. I rolled off the hood of her car and limped over to the curb. By the time I made it to the sidewalk she had driven off, she sped away, she left the scene. Bystanders got her license plate, and made sure that I was ok, which unbelievably I was. We walked up a block to the Hard Rock Cafe, the first available open business (this was all before cell phones), and called the cops. The rest of the day is an adrenaline blur. At some point I remember my partner and I in our hotel room, laying on our rented bed, crying. Not out of sorrow, but out of joy. I was alive. I had a nasty bruise on my right shin, AND THAT WAS ALL! I was alive.
And so every trip back to New Orleans is a crazy mix of anticipation (because fun is just around the corner) and excitement (because fun is just around the corner) and anxiety (because sometimes that corner is dangerous). I was given a gift of unusual perspective on life at 23, and as unbelievable as it sounds, I'm glad it happened. I said this happened by the grace of God and that's truly what I believe. I did not die that day. I was spared for some reason that is unknown to me, and every moment since has been a gift. I know it sounds trite, I know it sounds simple, but it's what I believe. I try to make the most of every day because I nearly didn't have another one. I hope you can do the same.