Personal Stories

Are you interested in sharing your experience as a CADI?

Please share your answers to one or more of the following questions:

  1. What is the one piece of advice you wish you’d received after becoming a CADI?
  2. What were some of the most important ways that friends or family helped/supported you after your accident?
  3. What books, movies, websites or other resources were most helpful to you?

I will compile the responses and add them to the site. Thanks!!


Personal Stories

Here is some writing that describes my experience as a CADI.
Please contact me with your own stories and responses. How was
your experience similar or different?

NPR Commentary, 2003 (after the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market

Los Angeles Times Op Ed Commentary, 2004

Jewish Journal “First Person” column, 2004

The Manifest-Station, Guest Post, March 11, 2015

Tikkun Magazine, April, 2016

New Yorker article about accidental killers by Alice Gregory, September 18, 2017

A guest blog post for LA Walks, November, 2017

Radio interview for the BBC Outlook, January 2018

Article excerpted from radio interview for BBC, January 2018

Radio interview for the BBC Ulster Sunday Sequence, January 2018

Article about accidental killing in Glamour Magazine, March 2018

Jonathan Izard’s radio documentary for BBC4, Meeting the Man I killed

Television episode (Insight) for Australia’s SBS, April 2018

Interview transcript on the Seven Ponds website, June 2019

38 thoughts on “Personal Stories”

  1. It’s been almost a year since I was in a bad car accident that I survived but someone else was killed.

    I got done work and headed out to meet friends at their family cabin for my best friends birthday. I was so close, maybe less than 30 minutes from arriving and my next memory is waking up in a hospital. I had no real memory but I think I knew a deer was involved or maybe I just heard doctors and nurses talking about it so it imprinted.

    I had shards of glass embedded in my forehead and hand. Brain bleeding, a concussion, broken nose, lung contusion and my left eye was sealed shut from a trauma. I’m so blessed that my friends knowing me well enough to know I would never be that late and not call, called police and hospitals until they found me and called my parents that calmly drove 9 hours to get to me. My dog was in the car and was okay and brought to a shelter where my friends went and got him and took care of him.

    My parents took me home and took care of me since I couldn’t stand well or see on my own and once I was more stable they told me what had happened from police reports and a witness.

    A witness saw a deer run in front of my car and hit it. They told police there was nothing I could have done. Moments before another car had run out of gas and pulled to the side of the road and the passenger had got out of the car. The deer ran in front of my car, my car hit their car and their car hit the man. When police arrived he wasn’t alive.

    I did go to therapy but it’s just such a different thing and there is nobody I know that has been through this. I know rationally it wasn’t my fault but I have this heavy heart and guilt about surviving. I wonder why I survived and he didn’t. I wonder if I should be doing something extraordinary because I’m alive and so easily could have lost my own life. I think about him every day but more now that it’s been almost a year since it happened so the feelings are stronger.

    I walked out of this. The brain bleeding healed. The scars show but have healed. I was back to work in a month and I’m happy to be alive and sitting here with my dog. I have amazing friends and a family that dropped everything to come to me.

    Thank you for anyone that reads and maybe can relate but really it just feels good to get it out even if nobody sees it.

    1. You write beautifully. I’m so sorry that you went through that horrible experience. I think people like to believe they have control. Control over what they do, control over what others do to them. It’s why loss of control is often one of the worst things that happen to us, and why, I hypothesize, people like to victim blame. If it only happened because the person did something wrong, they don’t have to worry about horrible things happening out of the blue. We like to say that people who got cancer probably smoked too much, that people with mental illness just have weak personalities. That people who get into horrible car accidents must have made some mistake, just so we can tell ourselves that it could never happen to us. But it can happen, to anybody. You know it’s not your fault, it’s society’s arrogance to say that people can control everything that happens to them. You’re lucky to be alive, it could have been you… but it wasn’t. And I’m grateful you’re alive. You owe no one anything, enjoy your life and your dog.

  2. My niece died by suicide a month ago. When we were told that she had made two suicide attempts within weeks, without any previous attempts, we were concerned that she needed in-patient psychiatric care. Her husband was looking for a family member to provide a place for her to stay to keep her out of the family home. It was agreed that anyone who took her into their home would immediately have her placed in an in-patient psychiatric unit. This did not take place. I feel guilt that I didn’t fly to her and personally commit her when the plan seemed to be falling through.

    She left her possessions behind and was found a week later after an overdose. She was in the prime of her life; a teacher for 12 years and the mother of three elementary-age children. When I spoke with her husband two days after she had disappeared he said he would “take a bullet in the brain rather than live with her for another minute”. Teachers are among the two professions least likely to commit suicide. I realize that my niece must have suffered from the events in that home and am concerned about the emotional damage that her children will experience.

    I can’t sleep and my immediate family has problems of their own. I don’t think that my life will ever be the same.

  3. My post seems like it will be the odd man out, and I beleive my story will be ostracized. The morning of July 5th 2018, i took my boyfriend to work. We had our best friend chanel(a pomeranian/chihuahua mix) with us. A normal day. We dropped him off and drove around to do errands before returning home.
    I need everyone to know that I beleived she had gotten out of the car, but she hadn’t. I returned home at about 12:30 and began my daily chores…by 2:30pm i realized the mistake i had made and ran as fast as i could to save her. She was breathing very lightly, i tried to give her water. Once i realized i could not fix this alone, i took her to the vet, with haste. She was still with me until we got there. But, they had pronouced her dead about 5 minutes later.
    My story is different, and i know the kind of demon i am. We hear about the “types on me” all the time…the kind that leave animals unattended in cars in hot days. I should be dead, and not her…i know she was a dog, but she did not deserve this ending. She gave me help when i needed it and i did this to her.
    Please if you have a dog, or if you see a dog in this situation, care for it. My neglegance cost me my best friend. Chanel i am so sorry. I am sorry to those who loved you, but most importantly, i am sorry for letting you down.

    1. Omg I feel for you so much! I am sending you a huge hug & kiss. Please talk to someone about your guilt, be kind to yourself. Chantel has already forgiven you. ♡♡♡♡♡♡

    2. Wlliam, you are not alone, and it is devastating.
      I packed a suitcase the night before I was going away for the night. I was going to be staying with my mother in another city to help her out with some things. I had packed everything, but had left it unzipped. The next morning, I zipped it up, put it in my car, and went to work. Afterwards, I drove to my mother’s. When I went to open it, I realized that my cat, Duchess, had been trapped inside the suitcase all day, and had died due to the heat. She only weighed a couple of lbs, and I hadn’t noticed the weight difference. I was absolutely devastated, and I’m still not over it, a decade later.

  4. At the age of 17 (38 years ago) I let my boyfriend drive my car. He had no license, we were smoking pot driving around – skipping school.
    At some point he crossed the line and hit an on coming car. My boyfriend died and the young man in the other card died two weeks later.
    I’ve never made a distinction between who was driving. I always have felt the responsibilities of both deaths and all the ensuing misery are on me – 100% on me. At the time my mother called me a murderer.
    I managed to carve a life and I cannot say I am unhappy. If I dwell on how it could have been I do get sad, so I don’t. I managed to pay my way through college, get a career and go through life. I never wanted children as I knew that fate would take mine like I took the children of two families. Serious relationships never materialized – I couldn’t saddle any good man with me. I felt too messed up, too tainted to be loved. How can someone love me – I don’t love me. Luckily I do well as a loner – it helps.

    About 6 months ago my mother confirmed she still considers me a murderer and that she still feels I but a burden on her she didn’t deserve. I have to admit I tanked and went to a dark place I hadn’t been since the accident. Lesson 434243: avoid people like her.
    I was swirling around in the emotional bottom of the dark tank I came across the article by Alice Gregory. I sent it to some of my best friends and said ‘there is a bit of me in all these stories’. I received the kindest and most loving notes from my friends – they pulled me back…. and up. God i love them and am grateful.

    I was grateful that the courts did not send me to jail for manslaughter. I had a chance at life and many great moments. I didn’t need additional punishment. My sentence is a life sentence.

  5. I found this website about a month ago, but decided to write today as today its been 38 years since I ran over a little boy. I was 17 and he was my next door neighbor, 6 years old at the time, and the little brother of my best friend. I was driving home from work and was 3 houses from my house when I stopped as a large group of kids was playing in the street. I was irritated, yelled at them to move, they moved, I took off fast, as I was mad at the kids for blocking the road. I felt a big bump as my car went up a bit then back down. I was very confused but immediately thought oh crap I think I ran over one of their bikes. I knew Id be in in a lot of trouble for that. I stopped, got out of the car and was very shocked and confused to see a little kid in a large pool of blood with the pool getting bigger and bigger. It turned out the boy had reached for my back door handle to get a ride home and when I took off he lost his balance and fell under the back wheel. I didn’t know this until a few days later when other kids told this story. A crowd grew, a doctor who lived nearby worked on the boy. I was punched in the face by the boys brother, my friend, his mother attacked me, then I was put in a cop car. I was under house arrest. I was in all the papers, on the news even though I was only 17 at the time. Days went by, the boy was still alive but in a coma and expected to die at any moment. At that time I was told I would be arrested for manslaughter. I escaped from house arrest – two cops at each door of my house. I planned on suicide but at the last second I changed my mind. After 3 weeks he was still alive I went back to high school one week before graduation. I was taunted, hit, laughed, at, picked on, had things thrown at me, was called a murderer, on and on. I graduated with no finals, it was silence when I walked on stage. Months passed, and he was still in a coma. I visited him everyday. He had over 30 broken bones, crushed skull, several brain surgeries, tubes everywhere. His mother attacked my car with a bat and never visited him and told everyone he was dead. I went to work and then the hospital every day. Talked to cops and insurance men just about every week. My parents were sued. They settled years later after I attended many dispositions and court appearances. I was found not guilty but considered negligent as that’s what the law says if you were driving and it was a little kid, its automatically your fault. I was never really arrested or actually charged with anything though as he survived somehow. After 4 months he came out of his coma against all odds and all doctors explanations. After many years of struggle, wheel chair, couldn’t talk, etc etc he recovered as much as he ever will. Today he lives in a “home” with people of mental disabilities like down syndrome, etc. He has severe brain injuries and walks with a limp. He acts like hes still 6 years old, brain frozen in time more or less. I saw him a few years ago and the first thing he said to me was – hey remember when you ran me over? uhm yes I do remember. I went to several therapists, psychologists, etc, but since they didn’t run over anyone I could never relate to them. I happened to have a very close uncle who ran over and killed his best friend on a drunken night. He helped me more than anyone. It destroyed his life though. I’m for the most part fine. Successful in everyway on the outside. I do really freak out at kids playing in the street and people driving fast in neighborhoods with kids around. I have PTSD for sure. I wrote a newspaper article about it once, but other than that Ive known people for over 30 years who Ive never told this story to. I moved across the country a few years after the accident to get away from it all. Anyway, I never though I had a right to complain as in my accident the boy survived. But I ruined his life, and I just have to live with it. It was just a freak accident, no one to blame though really. I was really stuck by the statistics on this site, I never thought about how many people go through something like this. I always thought I was pretty much alone. Didn’t make sense but I never really thought about it that for every accident there is more than one victim really. Oh I wrote enough. I’m so glad I found this site, and I hope it helps people. Its not easy, but time helps for sure.

    1. Hoping that you heal. I’ve never run over anyone but I had some pretty horrific trauma as a kid and I am o.k. My favorite part of your story is when you said that you saw him and he said to you “remember when you ran me over”? Take care!

  6. I found this site hoping that I would find someone who messed up as badly as I have. In December, I fell asleep at the wheel with my 24-year old daughter in the car with me. I was fine except for being bruised up and a few knots on my head. However, the seat belt caused severe internal injuries to our daughter that required two surgeries and 14 days in the hospital. She is still suffering from the after effects. She had gotten engaged two months earlier, and the fall out and stress from the accident and her PTSD from the accident have created a huge rift between her and her fiancé. It was just so much for them to handle when their relationship was relatively new. I’m sure that had this happened to them 10 years down the road, they would have been better equipped to handle it. But they won’t get that chance, and it’s my fault. I don’t dwell in my guilt, but I try to do everything I can to mitigate the harm that I’ve caused to her. It’s the best path I see forward. My heart breaks for her, and what I’ve done to her. Because the effects on her life are cumulative, it’s like I have something new to feel guilty about with every bad thing that happens to her because of this. It’s like continuing to get punched on a weekly basis. And then I feel guilty about feeling guilty, because this shouldn’t be about me.

  7. Last month I was on my way to work. I was going a little fast and got pulled over. As I was pulling onto the shoulder, I hit a pedestrian. She was wearing black and walking on the wrong side of the road. I have accepted that this was no one’s fault but was a horrible accident, though I still wish I could undo it. I’m sure I always will.

  8. This is the first time in nearly 19 years that I am sharing my story. It was the late 1990s, I was approximately 8 years old and my brother had just turned one. He needed a bottle warmed up and I wanted to do it myself therefore I didn’t alert my aunt. I proceeded to place his bottle in a cup of hot water and set it on a nearby table. I turned around for literally 3 seconds, but that was enough time for him to roll over to the table in his walker and pull the table down. In result, the hot water spilled all over his stomach and legs. I proceeded to scream out for my aunt that had been in the bathroom at the time. She immediately called 911 and the ambulance came to take my one year old brother to the hospital. Our mom came to the house to get me shortly afterwards, but I was so angry at myself that I locked myself in a room and refused to leave my aunt’s house. My brother survived however he has permanent scarring on 90% of his lower body and I am 100% scarred mentally for the rest of my life even though I was only an 8 year old child at the time. I feel terrible until this day because I wonder how this has impacted his life and I want to apologize after all of these years, but I never gained the courage even after all of this time. I know I was just a kid and he probably barely remembers the incident, but I’ve literally been carrying this with me for the majority of my life.

  9. I am someone who did not kill someone else, yet I hurt them gravely in an accident. Last year I hit a pedestrian with my car – I was distracted and at fault. I learned from my insurance she is still recovering from some pretty major injuries, and is suffering severe emotional trauma. I feel absolutely responsible for the accident and want to talk to her to express my sorrow and apologize, and yet I also dread the possibility of this conversation. Would she yell at me, tell me how hard her suffering has been? Does she know how horrible I felt then and how horrible I still feel? Does she care? Does it matter? Maybe I would only be apologizing to make myself feel better. I have to drive nearly every day for work and I find myself gripping the steering wheel, slowing at every intersection, scanning the road left and right. The hypervigilance is exhausting. I feel horrible for how she is suffering, and also like I don’t deserve to feel horrible. I’m right in the middle of it right now. Not sure why I am posting except to let others know that now I understand how hard this experience is. I hope others can find some peace and healing and something like resolution. I hope this for others because at some point I want to hope for it for myself. I hope to talk to her and I want to be ready for anything.

  10. I hit and killed a 16 year old in 2002. He pulled out in front of me while riding his bicycle. I remember the ER as if it were yesterday. I kept asking about the boy. When they finally told me that he passed away, I screamed as if he were my own kid. I went to counseling for two years. I was on anti-anxiety meds, struggled with PTSD, I blamed myself for killing a kid even though the state police determined that I was not speeding, and I know that I was not distracted. Doesn’t matter. I killed a kid. I was young (27), fairly newly married and I had a two year old daughter. I became difficult to live with. I was extremely sensitive to any kind of criticism. I had a temper (never physically violent, but I would throw things and/or scream because of the littlest things). My wife couldn’t take it. She filed for divorce and took my daughter. My daughter was everything. After this, I became convinced that everyone in the world would be better off if I was not around. I knew it in my heart. I never seriously considered suicide, but I begged God to take me. I had thoughts of driving off of a bridge.

    Time would pass. One day at a time, I healed, although the feelings of responsibility never completely went away. The temper passed fairly quickly. I could talk about the accident. I carried Tony’s obituary with me all the time (and still do). He is part of who I am.

    A couple months ago, I decided to reach out to his brother and sister. Tony’s parents had passed away. I was nervous. I told them that the last thing I wanted to do was cause them any more pain. The sister and I have begun a little bit of a friendship. She has told me repeatedly that she has forgiven me. I cannot describe what those words mean to me. The brother was polite, but a little more distant. I have not had much communication with him. Maybe some day… whenever, if ever he is interested.

    Soon after the sister and I began communicating a little bit, Tony’s aunt reached out to me. As it turns out, she lives in the same county as I. We met for coffee. She was also very gracious and forgiving. She encouraged me to get on with my life and to take care of my family. All this happened shortly before these past holidays. I celebrated differently this year.

    I could go on and on about many other details of the accident and how God took care of me that day. There was an angel there. Seriously. I saw his feet. He was real. The state trooper had known me from previous minor traffic violations in years prior. He could tell I was struggling and he was gracious. The neighbors, paramedics, witnesses, friends, co-workers, family, my pastor and even my lawyer, etc… all were amazing.

    Time does help. It just stinks to have to wait so long for something you desperately want right away. For me, I just didn’t want to keep hating myself, blaming myself, being so sensitive and hard to be around. I eventually got there. I am confident that anyone who reads this and has had a similar accident can get there too.

  11. My Name is Heather. I was involved in a car accident this early morning at 4am as I went to pick up my son from his work at UPS. While driving down a highway I hit and killed a women who walked out in front of the car in dark clothing on a dark street I did not see her at all until I felt and heard a thump and saw her body crash into my windshield. I screamed and stopped the car and got out and tried to call 911. The women was unconcious crumpled on the ground with blood coming out of her head. I fianly got 911 and the dispatch was asking me what the cross street was and I did not know. I only knew the name of the highway I was on which was Avondale. I kept on screaming ” I hit a women she needs help I don’t know the street!” I am also almost deaf and hard of hearing and in my state of mind i could not hear the dispatch person as i tried to prevent her being run over by other cars as they came down the road. A few cars went by but did not stop to help. Finally one woman did who was named Amy. She was able to call 911 for me and soon the police and medics arrived. I was questioned by the police who were professional and kind. The women I hit was known to them and she was known to have mental health issues and worked in a cafe nearby. That is all I know about her. The medics tried to save her but she died at the scene. The officers told me it was not my fault and there was nothing I could do to prevent it from happening. A volunteer chaplain came to help me process what just happened. I am still in shock and numb. This women did not deserve to die and I did not deserve to be the one to cause her death. That is the thought that runs through my brain. The image of her will be seared in my heart and brain for life.

    1. Oh, Heather. That is so sad. I live in Kirkland, and I know it gets so dark around Avondale and I, too, have a hard time knowing the cross streets – so much so that I choose to go Willows when I head over to Redmond from Kirkland. I hope you are able to talk with family and friends about your feelings. The person that died was a victim and you were too. It’s okay for you to go through a grieving process for the event and your own loss of equilibrium. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

      1. Thank you Kim. I called the Chaplain 3 days after the accident to ask for help from a therapist and I had my first appointment the next day. The thereapist is in redmond and runs the trauma unit for the police and fire units in the area. She knew of the women killed as well. The chaplian knew her too as she was a person who went to her same church. She was 70 years old and walking to work as she was a Janitor at the PCC market. Her name was Toni Haley and I say a prayer for her every day. My therapist told me that her coworkers had told her many times to not cross the street in the dark and yet she still did as she had many times before probably thinking it saved her time from having to go out of her way a few blocks to the signal nearby. I am slowly healing and will continue with my therapy.

    2. Hi I’m Greg on dec7 2017.i hit and killed a jaywalker dark out dark clothes. He died instantly. I’m having a tuff time dealing with this. I can’t find a support group for this do you know any

  12. 17 days ago while driving along a familiar route, a man was pulled over on the shoulder of the road and standing on the outside of his vehicle. Somehow, I struck him and his car. I can’t remember the moments before the impact. His leg was severed in the accident, and he has also suffered injuries to two of his remaining 3 limbs. I’m suffering from not only physical injuries from the accident, but from emotional ones. Most days I feel like a monster that has destroyed someone’s life. Even when the feeling isn’t that intense, I suffer tremendous guilt and constant worry for the man and his family.

  13. This past summer my husband was coming home from work as always on his bike. I had texted him to hurry. He had bought me tickets to a concert I wanted to see and I wanted him to have dinner with the kids before we went out. I was dressed up and excited.
    Then I received a text – “There’s been an accident.” My first thought was that someone had hit him and taken his phone to tell me. But then he wrote more and told me he had hit a pedestrian.
    The pedestrian had ran across the crosswalk on the red light – expecting it to turn green. My husband was rushing and crossed on the yellow – not thinking anyone would be there. They didnt see each other. Both went to the hospital with head injuries. My husband was released early the next morning. They told him the other guy would be fine too.
    We went on holidays.
    Then we got a call from the police that the man had had to have 3 brain surgeries, was put into an induced coma, and finally taken off life support after 3 weeks.
    My husband is seeing multiple psychologists and hypno therapists. Our relationship has not been the same since. I dont know how to help him cope.

    1. It must be very hard supporting a loved one who has accidentally caused the death of another person. 5 years ago, almost to the day, I hit and killed a 3 year old child who ran on the street in front of me. All I saw was dark hair over the bonnet of my 4wd and I swerved, but there was no way to avoid him. His mother ran into the street and grabbed him up, then ran home to the bottom of her home’s stairs. She waited for a blanket before putting him down. She didn’t know CPR. I was on the phone to emergency services and I knew CPR but she wouldn’t let me touch her son. The injuries to his head were horrific, his head was struck by my bull bar. His jaw was mangled and his teeth were floating inside his mouth, only held in place by his skin. Emergency services arrived and he was taken to hospital. I followed in an ambulance shortly after. As I was taken into an exam room I heard a woman scream and knew he had died. I wanted to die too. I still don’t remember things that happened. My mind has invented things that didn’t happen. Two of my children (12 and 9) were in the car too. I watch as one child is always angry and the other has depression, anxiety and PTSD. They are still seeing psychologists. I stuttered for about a week afterwards, I have never stuttered in my life. I have flash backs, I have PTSD, I am always hyper vigilant and I have panic attacks. I doubt they will ever go. My husband was my rock. He didn’t do anything. Seriously. He was his normal self. He helped me to see that life would go on and it would continue to go on. My best friend came and watched movies with me, she cooked dinner and made coffee. She held me as I cried and said it didn’t make me a bad person, just an unlucky one. I still struggle at times, it never goes away, but talking has helped, a LOT! I talk to everyone. I hope that my accident brings good to others. Some friends no longer speed, some no longer talk on mobiles. Not that I was doing either, but I take heart from two things. 1. He died instantly, I don’t think he suffered at all (medical opinion) 2. Other people are safer because people I know have made their driving safer. Kat, just be there and don’t change. Your husband needs normal and ordinary as he comes to terms with extraordinary things that have happened to him. Your love, your faith, your shoulders and arms, he needs you. These things only happen to other people, but to everybody else, I am the other person and so is your husband. Encourage him to talk but don’t give platitudes, you will cope and so will he…it isn’t ever going to be ok, but it will be different and that’s ok. My love to you both.

  14. I come to this site because I just finished reading an article in the 18 Sept. ’17 issue of the ‘New Yorker’ magazine, ‘Accidental Killers’ by Alice Gregory–this piece hit a nerve and pierced a heart–mine.

    Ten years ago I went through a red light signal because I believe I experienced a micro sleep. My only memory is driving along slowly, thinking this street is very dark, then suddenly I seem to come awake from traffic noise: I am in the middle of an intersection with cars and a motorbike whizzing in my field of vision, then braking, turning, just nicking the end of the motorbike, seeing the rider go sprawling, then a huge bang from a car T-boning my car, airbags try but fail, and I am knocked out. I wake with people helping me, and am taken to hospital. Police say they will charge me with negligent driving, going through a red light signal, and causing grievous bodily

    A few days later I revisit the scene. Two cars have been totalled, one motorbike, and its rider in hospital still with ‘serious’ injuries. I am numb and puzzled. I find that a large tree with overhanging foliage partly obscures the red-light signal.
    I take a picture and give this information to police, but know I must have fallen asleep at the wheel.

    I keep calling police as directed by my engaged lawyer to find out the charges. My lawyer said he would argue only that it was an accident because of a moment of inattention. I told him I believe I had a micro-sleep. He countered that might increase liability. What I did not tell him was that the day before I was sacked from my teaching job. I had been teaching for more than 40 years. I was being let go, my time was up, that’s just the way it is. I did not sleep the night before the accident. The next day I was in a rather mindless state. I certainly should not have been driving that evening, for I was definitely sleep-deprived. This website certainly has helped me clarify that as playing into the responsibility I bear. I was trying to make myself feel better by going out to eat at a favourite restaurant.
    I should never have gotten behind the wheel in that state: I was irresponsibly elevating risk, and the consequences were serious injury, destroyed property, and more.

    The complication in this is my main point. I kept calling police to find out the charges. My lawyer said most probably after pleading guilty to ‘negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm’ I would lose my license for a year and pay a fine of $2000. I had no complaints about this; I only was heart-sick about the continuing suffering of the victim, a young woman who was riding the motorbike. Police eventually, after about a month, informed me that there were medical complications for the victim and that there would a long term of a series of operations. I felt terrible. They told me to stop calling and that they would contact me about what charges would be laid. Still, occasionally, I did call during the next two months. Police only would say, nothing new, and please, stop calling, we will call you. At the end of four months my lawyer contacted me to find out what was going on. I told him no charges were laid because the medical outcome of the victim had not been resolved. Well, he said call me when it is so we can prepare the case for court. I said I would.

    Months went by. I called Police again after 9 months. They said nothing to report. By then I was sick with worry about how the victim was suffering through such a long series of operations. I had all the signs of trauma: sleepless, numb, depressed, unable to concentrate, detached and dissociated. These symptoms continued for a number of years. I just tried to cope and wait in a limbo. I did not replace my car. I could not drive. I was waiting for the case to be resolved. This went on for 5 more years. I became used to being pedestrian, glad not to drive, too risky to do so anyway. I waited. There is no statute of limitations in Australia(I am an American ex-pat). I found a new job that was convenient to public transport. I kept waiting. After 7 years, I retired. I moved and built a small cabin on my daughter’s property and became a senior carer for my 2 grandchildren. I acquired a car to help in my care for them, taking them to school. Still, I was a fearful, cautious driver. I drove only about 2000 miles a year. After ten years, one morning two men came up to my home with drawn pistols and told me to come outside. When I did they handcuffed me and locked me in a police truck. I asked what was the problem. They curtly said: You know what you have done! Oh, is this related to the car accident. “That was no accident! You ran a light! You never showed up for court! You are an evader! We have multiple warrants. Your case was ten years ago.’ I was incredulous, but obviously compliant. I spent the next couple days sitting in jail, waiting for my bail hearing on the multiple warrants for 2 non-appearances in court. Finally, a judge said he would allow bail, but only because I had a clear record and was a retired school teacher, so couldn’t be all bad. They set a sentence hearing.

    My sentence hearing was adjourned three times. I kept showing up, but there were legal complications. My original lawyer remained completely evasive and passive. I was a legal liability for him in his mind. I just wanted the matter properly resolved. One complication was the original charge was for a law that no longer existed. And so on, ad infinitum…Ultimately, a judge finally reluctantly said she would rule and deliver a sentence(this was 4 months after being picked up on the warrant). She said there was no defence for not appearing in court, that I was irresponsible and an evader of justice. I was not allowed to speak. I had never received any notice of being charged or of the court dates or even of the warrants because the address was wrong, and no one including the postal service had followed up on the Registered Mail requirements. I was easily contactable and had even been actively in communication with police for the whole period covered by the warrants. None of this was considered by the Judge.

    I walk and think a lot these days and still feel terrible, but am glad the long series of operations did NOT occur, though I lived in ignorance and concern thinking they did. Certainly a person did suffer broken bones, and for that I am utterly sorry. Now I am a hyper-careful person with a high sense of safety always. That is to the good. And I thank this site for helping to clarify indeed my responsibility: it was not just an accident, for I got behind the wheel in a sleep-deprived and anxious, perhaps distracted state.

    I walk everywhere these days, wondering even if I will ever drive again. When I walk, I think, I clarify, and I become more naturally relaxed. Walking is good, good for a troubled mind.
    I have no license for a year, I paid my fine. The judge said I should not ignore the law and the courts, that I was lucky not to be getting a custodial sentence.

    I don’t think that way. I am lucky the injury was not as serious as I came to believe, but serious enough. I am very careful, about everything, but know even that accidents occur in this universe, to include bureaucratic legal accidents, a kind of…tit for tat.

    I am sorry this story took so long to tell, and that’s not even the half of it.

    Sincerely, James Provencher

  15. After becoming addicted to pills, my girlfriend and I quickly moved on to heroin. A few years ago, we decided to get clean after a friend of ours overdosed and died. About a week before we planned to come home to get help I fixed myself a shot and blacked out, which happened to me frequently on heroin. It’s a very jarring experience, as if my consciousness were a television that turned on and off whenever it pleased. It could be in the middle of a conversation or while standing at a bus stop. On that night the black out lasted almost five hours. When my consciousness flipped back on, she was sitting on the bed with me, crumpled over with the needle still in her arm.

    I instantly knew what happened.

    She was never able to hit a vein on her own. She always needed me to do it, which often meant preparing the shot. I have since gotten clean, but I have never been able to stop thinking about it. I love her dearly still.

    Since then, all I have heard is “it wasn’t your fault” and “she made the choice” and “you can’t blame yourself.” They don’t know what to say but what they’re supposed to. As a psychic would, I know it’ll always bleed. Even just to slow the hemorrhaging would be helpful. Spiritually, I’ve freed myself from prison only to enter another. That is the cycle. Slowly I’m learning to live with the hole punched in my soul in that dreadful moment.

    Still, I worry my consciousness, if not my very existence, will always be caught up in the motions of unrelenting sadness. The worst part is that it’s a flat sadness that hangs like a fog over everything else I feel.

    Amends, atonement, apathy?

    Each one as good as snakeoil.

    Time, it appears, is the only cure.

    Thank you for the site and warm regards to all who carry this peculiar burden.

  16. I read the story in the New Yorker and felt compelled to comment from a different perspective. In 1974, when I was 13, I was riding my bike home from a convenience store, frozen coke in hand, and turned off a sidewalk directly into the path of a car in a 40 mph speed zone. I smashed into the windshield and was throw over the car. By all accounts, I should have been killed, but survived with only cuts and scrapes. In the hospital, I was able to tell my parents it was all my fault and my father called the driver, who we heard was a young woman driving with her younger brother, to let her know she was in no way to blame. She did not accept the call, possibly out of shock or at her attorney’s advice. I have always harbored guilt for putting her through such an ordeal and 43 years later, only offer my story to let others know that the victim may well have been the catalyst for disaster. In my case, the driver was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time—it was 100% my negligence that caused the accident.
    May you all find peace.

  17. 2 a.m., July 2, 1978 – I was in my senior year of high school and driving my girlfriend/high school sweetheart home at after we had worked a double shift at a local restaurant. I stopped at a T-junction: if I had turned left, I would have followed a well-lit avenue all the way home. But I chose to turn right and take a winding, unlit, rural road to home. That bad choice changed everything.
    Halfway home, I grew more interested in talking to my sweetheart than paying attention to the road. I went off the road and hit a telephone pole. She was thrown from the car and killed instantly. I survived with barely a scratch. I went so crazy that night while the police cleaned up and interviewed me, that I had to be restrained in the back of their vehicle. Nearly 40 years later I still remember the rage, the guilt, the shame and horror like it was yesterday.
    A few hours later, as the police escorted me to my home and then went to visit hers, two families became utterly devastated.
    The next few months for me are a blur of deep depression, medication, anger, desperation, thoughts of suicide, constant weeping, running and walking without direction for hours, therapy visits and – believe it or not – preparing to go to college.
    But, within 24 hours of the accident, I knew I had a simple choice, to either let this ruin my life, or to somehow find a way to become a much better person than I ever thought I could be while finding a way to pay the universe back for what I took: the life of a wonderful, joyous, beautiful, talented, intelligent and creative girl named Michelle. I like to think I chose the latter and almost every day I think about my responsibility and I try to make a positive difference in the world.
    In the Fall of 1978, I was very, very fortunate in that I was entering a fine arts program in a distant city that trained professional actors. There I was encouraged to get in touch with my emotions and express them honestly. Theater school saved my sanity. I have written and produced a play, songs and a film about the accident and someday I hope to make that film, called “The Choice.” I am now a published author and professional speaker, talking to whoever will listen about the need for respect, to respect others and to be respected in turn. In fact it seems, that ever since the accident, my life has been a search for respect – respect for myself: which is the hardest thing to achieve after being accidentally responsible for the death of someone you loved.
    I am, like so many of you, a survivor, burdened with guilt and shame and deeply cognizant of my own mortality. But I find the choice I have made and the work that I do to help others liberates me somewhat; frees me up to be decent, kind and caring. It’s Michelle’s legacy and I honor it completely.
    I can only hope that by sharing my story that others will see a possible way forward out of their own dark places. If you can find a way to channel the rage, guilt and shame into something positive, that makes a real difference in people’s lives, I believe you will be OK; not fantastic, not ever truly unburdened and carefree like before the accident (I don’t think that will ever change), but at least a little more at ease, a little less angry, a little more calm and at peace with yourself. That, for me, is enough.

    1. I would like to read your screen play and hear your songs. Our stories are similar.
      At age 22 I was driving my 21 yo boyfriend in my blue VW bug down an unfamiliar country road. I went through a stop sign obscured by tree branches. The oncoming driver from the highway I unknowingly crossed hit us on the passenger side. My boyfriends lungs were crushed. An ambulance came . Jaws of life pulled me out. His last words in the ambulance were ” It hurts”.
      I survived with a mild concussion and surface injuries. He died an hour after impact. His brother and sister came to visit me while claiming his belongings is Boston, where we both lived. His brother said he was going to grad school in social work and I should check it out. I enrolled, and I made it through to become a clinical social worker. I think it probably saved my life. What else could I do but give myself to others? Even though this happened 44 years ago, I can still smell the blood. I drive only locally , flinch when anyone passes me on the right. I most fortunately had 2 sons ( they saved me, too), but always worry my PTSD has negatively effected them. So it goes. Not fantastic, a little less angry, a lot less trusting and carefree. Still difficult to do a gratitude list. Nonetheless, a life to honor. Like all survivors of accidental impacts. What a relief to have a designation.

  18. I did not know about this website or that there would be anyone like me out there. I know there are all kinds of accidents, but one does not stop to think that there are others out there that have experienced this same thing. I am truly not at the point where I can talk about this for any expended period of time nor can I think about it too much. If I do, I completely shut down and I cannot afford to do that. You see, I am the Superintendent of Schools for a rural school district in New Mexico. It is a small district that runs on a shoestring budget and we simply don’t have staff to do things. I cannot be absent.

    The incident in question happened in the course of my work. One evening, Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at about 7:30 pm, I was on my way home from a board meeting and traveling on a rural by-pass highway. That evening we really did not have a contentious or long board meeting. In fact all was well. This by pass is unsafe and people speed and do all manner of interesting things. Therefore, I am always cautious. There have been numerous fatalities. I was driving the speed limit, both hands on the wheel, and so forth. As I rounded a curve, I saw a white flash and then there was a huge thing laying across the road. I did what my father taught me to do when I learned to drive — look for a way out – look to the right and look to the left and see if you can avoid this thing. If not, slow down and proceed. There was little slowing down as the thing was directly in front of me and it all happened in seconds. I had to proceed, and I hit that thing at 60 miles an hour. The car went on its side, the airbags went off, and I had a hard time controlling it. I finally came to rest against the guard rail.

    I had the presence of mind to call 911. I told them I had been in a terrible accident and that I had hit something – a large animal or a person, I would guess, but why would a person be laying in the road immediately in front of me? The 911 operator said that they had received calls from some truckers that there was a fist fight going on along the highway and police were already on their way. Just about that time, the police showed up and the truckers came to see if I was OK. The investigation and questioning took forever and I could not drive so my spouse had to come get me. Our assistant superintendent was behind me in her car and she assisted greatly. I was told various things – that there was one person; that there were two people, that they had been shot previously and left there, and on and on. The fact remained that they were dead. I was sent home.

    The next day was awful. The event was in the paper and I heard from lots of people. It was picked up by New Mexico news and it was all over the place and I received numerous calls and emails. Our assistant superintendent and director of HR came to my house and told me that that there were two women involved. A mother and a daughter. Both women had children that were enrolled in our school district and I knew the name and children.

    What happened was that these two women had decided to have a party at their house and consume a great deal of alcohol and then drive and take a large bottle of liquor with them to another party. Along the way they got mad at each other and they got out of the car and were fighting along the road way and struggled and they knocked each other into my way. I was devastated. I love my school district and all the people in it and I decided I would retire or quit immediately. However, what ensued was an outpouring from our community and staff and students asking me to return. So I did one of the hardest things I had done to that date. I returned on Monday. There was still a hurdle left. The family wanted to come see me. That, to me, was too much. However, with a great deal of support from our school board and others, I met with the family and I truly dissolved as the 87 year old matriarch came to check on me and apologize to me for her “daughters’” behavior and she wanted forgiveness. That, to me was honestly the most humbling thing I have ever been involved with. Since that time, we graduated two girls and one will graduate this year. I have an incredible bond with those children.

    While the police investigated and did all they had to do, it was recognized for what it was and I was cleared from all wrong doing. I have heard from some well-meaning people that the women deserved it because they were drunk and out doing things they should not be doing. My feeling is that no one deserves to die – most especially in an accident. I maintain to this day that there were three people on the road that night and two are dead and one is living. The guilt, shame, and constant thought that I could have avoided this issue still haunts me every single day, and like I said, I can’t spend too much time thinking about it.

    Many people say to me that it was not my fault, but I know it is and I know that my heart is broken and will never mend. I have spent a lot of time thinking there was nothing to help me and that I simply was sentenced to a life that is forever changed and guilty. I know that this is not like causing come kind of trauma or death to a family member or most especially a child. Nothing compares to that. However, every day, twice a day, I have to drive by the exact site and every day twice a day, I die a little more inside. I have gotten really good at covering everything up and not discussing or thinking about this, but I know that it must show to some as a person with whom I work provided me with this website.

    1. You are so very brave to talk about this here; to tell your story. Based on my experience as someone who also feels deeply responsible for another’s death, all I can say is keep talking, keep telling your story, keep trying to be the wonderful person you are and helping people as you have throughout your life. No one who truly knows will tell you will you ever totally get over this, but in time, if you give yourself permission and you get professional help, it will become easier for you to do all of the positive things that you want to do, to make the positive difference you are making in the world with a lighter heart. It will take time, but it will come.

  19. April this year, I accidentally killed a lady in her early 40’s.
    Her name was Melissa. We were travelling in a 100km/ph speed zone, approaching a 60km/ph speed zone. Melissa and her partner were riding their motorbikes in front of me, I had been following them for around 20km at the time of the impact. We came around a bend approaching the 60km/ph speed zone, Melissa and her partner slowed down by easing off the accelerator, I hadn’t noticed the rate they had slowed down at when I looked down to check my speedo. Then it happened, I tapped the back end of her bike, she came off and went under the ute I was driving. The impact was so small that the ute, had virtually no damage to it. The impact happened so fast but at the same time, it happened so slow. Unfortunately for Melissa, her helmet came off. I was first one to her body trying to administer first-aid, but unfortunately, she would not survive her injuries.
    I was not speeding, the accident happened at an estimate of 40 – 50km/ph under the speed limit, I was not under the influence, I was a tad tired, as I had been sick the night before, and had been working all day. I was on my way to my last job of the day.
    I re-live the accident all the time. I already had chronic depression before the accident but since it’s has been like the depression has been on steroids. I can’t sleep, I’m always breaking down and I find it hard to talk to anyone as I feel as if everyone is judging me. Court has been hard, and it’s not the possible jail time, but, seeing her family. Wanting to go give them a hug and tell them how sorry I am. When I see them I feel weak, I have kids the same age as her kids and that rips me apart every day.

  20. Almost 50 years ago my twin brother was accidentally shot and killed by my 15 year old cousin. It tore the fabric of my family. Since my family cut all contact with my cousin’s family I never knew what became of him but then, 40 years after the incident, I received an emotionally unbalanced letter from him asking me to forgive him. At the time, I still couldn’t face him. I wrote him forgiving him but an irrational fear of meeting him still nagged at me. I have since heard that he was a drug addict and homeless. Now my family has lost all contact. He may be dead. I was so traumatized by the accident that, sadly, I wasn’t capable of reaching out to him until many years later. Whatever one’s beliefs, I believe that the best life we can live is a life of courage and self-love in the face of terrible pain that we sometimes are forced to live with.

  21. This is my story. I was headed to New Holland to take my two children to their babysitter so I could go to work. I drive past the Dakota Christian school handfuls of times a week. That day a truck pulled out in front of me. Inside was the 14 year old driver, his 11 year old sister, and 10 year old Andrew. No one in the truck was wearing seatbelts and I T-Boned them at 65mph. I had my seatbelt on and my children were in car seats. We walked away with minor injuries. All three children in the other vehicle were ejected from impact. The driver and his sister also had minor injuries. Andrew died. There was nothing I could do. I was not at fault an my tox screens were clear. I was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyday I deal with the guilt and grief of being involved in the accident. I have nightmares and rarely sleep. My mind is my worst enemy. I went to Andrews prayer service and funeral. So many people loved that little boy. I took away his life.

    1. You are not alone. I have trouble sleeping too, difficulty not letting my mind wander back to the accident. One day at a time. Find solace that you are not alone.

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