GF¢ 006: How 5 Seconds (could have) Changed My Life (and still did)

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The other day 5 seconds made all the difference in the world.

I was heading back home from a meeting I had with a client near the St. Louis area traveling south on Route 127 – a two lane road through the country side.  While talking to my wife using my Bluetooth, something immediately caught my eye.

What look like a big cloud of dust appeared in the middle of the road and I immediately knew something was wrong.

I vaguely remember saying to my wife,

“Baba, I got to go.  I think I just saw a head on collision.”

To my dismay, that’s exactly what I saw.

5 seconds


I immediately pulled my car to the side of the road, called 911 and jumped out to see if everyone was okay. While  walking up to the crash scene, I had flashbacks of being in Iraq and walking up to a Humvee that had was blown up by an IED, as I saw pieces of car everywhere.

I knew what I was walking up to.  I just didn’t want to believe it.

Two passengers where involved in the collision.  One older gentleman in his 50’s driving a full sized red truck was responsive.  He was obviously dazed but seemed to know what had happened. The other passenger was conscious but completely en-wrapped in her white, four door sedan.

She had been hit directly on the front drive side of her vehicle, making it impossible for her to get out.   I’m not really sure what happened but by talking to the guy that was in the car directly in front of me, he thinks that one of the cars crossed over the median and that’s why they hit head on. (I later learned that she was the one that had crossed over the center line).

When I arrived on the scene there were two woman, a mother and daughter that lived right where the accident occurred, who were both nurses that were attending to the victims.  I and a few others were hauling buckets of water to throw on the woman’s engine to prevent it from catching on fire.  (We couldn’t get to the ignition to shut the car off and there was oil all over the roads)

5 seconds 2

What If…..

You don’t have many moments like this in your life where you really start to ponder the “what if’s“:

  • What if I had driven a few miles faster along the way?
  • What if I hadn’t stopped in McDonalds to get a coffee?
  • What if my second appointment hadn’t had to reschedule?
  • What if I had got gas the night before where I didn’t need to fill up that morning?

After witnessing such an accident, it really puts your life into perspective. The only thing I could start thinking about was my family and how much I loved them.   When I approached the car I remember hoping that I wouldn’t see a car seat in the back.   Having 3 young children I’m not sure how I could have handled seeing that.  You can imagine my relief when I didn’t see one.

Within minutes emergency first responders started arriving and tending to the man and woman.  I stood on the side of the road watching as the surrealism continued.

After praying for the woman the financial planner in me kicked in as I started reflecting on the financial to-do’s of my own life.  You know.   The items on your list that you always say “You’ll get around to it” but never do.

One item that came to mind was life insurance on my wife.  She currently has insurance at her job, but it’s always possible that she might decide not to return and take care of our kids.   In that case, we would need a third party term life insurance policy on her.

We already applied for a social security number on our newborn son and once that arrives we need to get his name updated as a beneficiary on all our retirement accounts and also our will. I’m sure there are other things but these are the first things that came to mind.

What’s on Your List?

In your own life, what are the things that are in your to-do list but you keep putting off?

  • Have you set up a power of attorney with you and your spouse?
  • Have you bought the life insurance policy that you know you need and keep telling yourself that you’ll do it later?
  • Have you gotten married recently or divorced and need to get your beneficiary information updated?
  • Have you made a phone call to your attorney to have the will drafted so that your family and your minor kids are taken care of?

I’m sure as I have things on my to-do list, you do as well. Today was a friendly reminder, a nudge, to get you off your butt to get it done.

Stop thinking. Start doing.

My Condolences

I was shocked to learn later that evening that the female passenger had passed away due to her injuries.  I couldn’t believe it.  Reading her obituary I learned that she was 34 years old (one more than me) and she had 3 children (just like me).  My heart goes out to her family. You can read more about the accident here.

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Comments | 4 Responses

  1. says

    I grew up in southern Illinois and know route 127 well. I sometimes took it to and from St. Louis because it’s quite scenic in many stretches. But it can be dangerous, one of those unforgiving roads where a moment’s inattention can prove disastrous. Any moment each of our lives can permanently change. It’s a good thought to keep in mind during this season of mostly pointless binge consumption.

  2. says

    Wow. I had a similar moment about 10 years ago. A bunch of buddies of mine went to motorcycle week. I stayed back to work. Long story short, one of my buddies got in an accident and didn’t make it. To this day I wonder what might have been different if I went too because my motorcycle was slower (a cruiser) than theirs (sport bikes). I know he wouldn’t have been where he was when he was. But that’s all I know. Sad.

    Glad you’re OK and so sad that the woman didn’t make it. Wow.

  3. says

    That’s just awful. I have to say that I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to cars and minor fender-benders. However, almost everyday there’s a fatal accident on one of our freeways in Los Angeles. I think we all need to remember that cars can kill – so slow down! – and that we should be thankful for the people in our lives and the time we have to share with them.

  4. says

    What a tragedy… and so close to the holidays too for that poor woman’s family. Life really can change in just a few seconds, and you’re definitely right about making sure all of your important documents are set and ready to at any time… just in case you do.

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