73: Miracle on County Road 388

73: Miracle on County Road 388

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Miracle on County Road 388

Angels are all around us, all the time, in the very air we breathe.

~Eileen Elias Freeman,

The Angels’ Little Instruction Book

On June 21, 2011, a maple tree fell on the van I was driving during a thunderstorm. It landed on the roof directly above my head and then rolled forward to plunge through the windshield, landing on my chest and pinning me in my seat.

In those first moments after the impact, I didn’t know I was hurt. I could hear my twelve-year-old son keening in terror in the front seat beside me while my thirteen-year-old daughter shouted our names over and over again from the back seat. There was thunder and lightning and howling winds, and all I could do was pray, “God, please get my kids out of here.”

For some reason, I couldn’t turn my head to look at them, but they didn’t seem to be hurt. I could see my son out of the corner of my eye, wild-eyed and pale, and I could hear his sister moving around in the back seat. “Climb out the window,” I told her. “Run to the nearest house and call 911 and then stay there. Stay inside, out of the storm. Do you understand?”

“But I don’t want to leave you guys!”

“We’re not hurt, honey. We’re just stuck.”

“But . . . you’re all bloody, Mom.”

“God, please help us. Save my kids,” I prayed. We were on a lonely country road with only a few houses, and no one was likely to drive by any time soon. My cell phone was lodged somewhere under the crushed dashboard. We were on our own.

Suddenly, a man spoke up from somewhere off to my left, amid the tree branches and wet leaves. “I’m here to help you, ma’am,” he said.

“Get my kids out. Please.”

He got to the passenger side in seconds and peered through the window at my boy. “I’m going to get your son out of here,” he told me. “I need you to lean his seat back, and then I’ll pull him out the backseat window.”

My daughter told me later that the stranger didn’t seem to notice when she grabbed his shoulder to steady herself as she climbed out the window. While she was doing that, I was struggling to move my hand those few inches to the seat release knob, which was located within reach of the driver in my minivan. I could see my fingers wrap around it, but they didn’t seem to want to obey and turn it.

My son’s hand closed over mine with a gentle squeeze. “I got this, Mommy,” he said, suddenly calm. I watched him go back and slowly disappear, inch by inch, until he was gone.

The stranger came back to my window. “It’s your turn, Ma’am,” he said. “I’m gonna drag you out the same way I got your son out.”

“No,” I said. “Get my kids out of here. Get them out of the storm. Please.” I knew it was crazy to trust a complete stranger with my children, but there was something about him that just felt safe, even if I couldn’t see his face. “What’s your name?” I asked him.

“Daniel Barnes. I’ll take care of them.”

I was alone then, although it was only a matter of minutes before the fire department showed up. It took nearly forty minutes for them to cut the tree apart and get me out of the vehicle. My neck was broken, along with other injuries that left the emergency room doctor shaking his head in disbelief — especially when he looked my children over and confirmed that they were basically unharmed.

It wasn’t until several days later that I was able to read the accident report and get a phone number for the man listed as the first witness on the scene. His name was David, not Daniel, but I assumed I had just heard him wrong that night. I dialed the number with shaking hands and when he answered, I thanked him for pulling my kids out of the wreckage.

“But I didn’t do that,” he told me. “Your kids were already out when I got there.”

“Where was the other guy?”

“There was no other guy.” David explained that he had actually seen the accident take place. He had passed my van going the opposite direction and glanced up in his rearview mirror just in time to see the tree fall. It had taken him a few minutes to go around the curve and find a place to turn around and come back to help us, and my kids were standing on the side of the road with their arms wrapped around each other by the time he arrived.

The fallen tree completely blocked the road. No other cars could have come or gone.

It’s a small town with only a few hundred residents, most of whom are related to each other. Everyone knows everyone else. There are few strangers in that tiny town, and no one there has ever heard of Daniel Barnes.

My son doesn’t remember being lifted out through the back window. My daughter never saw the man’s face. My only impression of him was of wet, dark hair and a narrow face. A calm voice.

People who weren’t there that night tell me that my memory is garbled because of my injuries. They say I’ve confused the names “David” and “Daniel.” They can’t explain, however, just exactly who got my kids out of the van that night. No one seems to know who rescued them.

But I know who he was.

He was the answer to my prayer.

~A.J. Goode

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