85: Every Hair on My Head

85: Every Hair on My Head

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Every Hair on My Head

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.

~Dorothy Bernard

My family lives and breathes dirt track racing. Every Friday night, we race home from work to load up our cars, our kids, and my elderly in-laws so that we can get to the track for the best seats. We’ve been doing this for eighteen years.

Some races are bigger and better, especially on holiday weekends, and July 4th weekend in 2000 was no exception. Path Valley Speedway was packed, and I realized it was going to be a very long night. At one point, I happened to look over and noticed that my son, Justin, was sleeping. His dad had already raced, so I leaned over and asked him if he wanted to go home. He replied, “No, I want to watch them all tonight.”

I sat there for a while thinking about whether we should stay or leave when, all of a sudden, I was overcome with this thought: You need to leave and go home now! I sat there for a couple more minutes thinking, Why rush? But when the thought got stronger and just wouldn’t let up, I leaned over and asked my mother-in-law, Bessie, “Do you mind if we leave now?”

She said, “No, let’s go. Justin is sleeping anyway.”

As I was pulling out of the speedway, I was once again overcome with an urgency to get home right away. I was running all these reasons through my head when Bessie said, “Look, is that a car on fire?”

I said, “Maybe, but I can’t tell. We will have to get closer.”

As I pulled closer, I realized that we must be the first people on the scene, so I told Bessie to stay in the car with Justin. As I started running toward the fire, a gentleman screamed at me to stay back, that he had called for help, but I didn’t stop. I just kept running until I could feel the heat. When I stopped, I could see two people in the Chevy Blazer. I looked up in the air and said, “God, what do you want me to do?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, I started yanking on the passenger door. It flew open, and I realized that an unconscious child was inside. I started pulling on the seat belt, and the gentleman kept yelling at me to get away from the car. I ignored him and finally got the child unhooked. I picked him up and carried him to safety, laying him on the ground away from the car.

I ran back to the car and said, “God, I can’t do this.” And I heard him say, “Yes, you can.” I ran around the vehicle, but realized immediately that I couldn’t open that door, so without thinking I crawled into the blazer through the passenger side door. I started pulling on the woman inside and realized that her foot and leg were crushed between the seat and the door. I asked God to give me strength, and then I crawled over the console into the back seat and started yanking on her seat as hard as I could. All the while, I could feel the flames getting closer and closer to us. Finally, after the fourth or fifth yank, the seat broke. I flew backward, but as I leaned forward I realized she was free, so I started pulling her sideways.

The man was still screaming at me to get out of the car, so I screamed back, “Help me or shut up!” That seemed to rattle him into action, and he grabbed her by her jeans and yanked her across the seat. I jumped out of the burning vehicle just as the fire trucks and ambulances rolled onto the scene.

I leaned down over the lady and told her that she would be okay. I would be praying for her and her son. Then, in my shock, I walked away without talking to anyone. As I crawled into my car, Bessie asked if I was okay and if the people in the car were okay. I told her “Yes,” and we drove home.

When I got home, I showered the blood off of me. Only then did I sit down and cry. All I could think of was, Did I hurt her? Did I do more damage to her leg by yanking her out of that car? I was so upset that when my husband arrived home and asked me if I knew about the accident at the turnpike entrance, all I could say was, “Yes, and I hope they are okay.” I went to bed that night never telling him that I crawled into that burning car. The next day, both my son and my mother-in-law told him what I did. Needless to say, he was a little upset because I could have been hurt.

The next week when we arrived at the races, everyone was talking about the accident and how badly injured the lady was. They told me that she was in critical condition with a head injury, as well as severe leg and foot injuries. They also told me that the boy was fine. Just as they were telling me this, my husband walked up to me and said, “You are never going to believe this, but the lady whose life you saved is my cousin Regina. What are the odds of that happening?”

Regina was in the hospital for almost four months, but when she was released she had her husband bring her to the races to find me. We both started crying right away when we met. Regina said, “I have something to show you, but I want to ask you something first. Why did you risk your life to save me?”

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I really didn’t think about it.”

Regina said, “I don’t remember much about the accident, but I remember you talking to God as if he was right there in the burning blaze with us. I remember you saying, ‘God, you put me here, so you better help me right now to get this lady out.’ Then you said the funniest thing. You said, ‘God, please don’t let my hair burn.’ ” As she said that, tears rolled down my face. All I could think was how vain I was to think that my hair was that important!

Regina handed me pictures of the accident and said, “I’ve never believed in God, and yet I know you do with all your heart.”

As I looked at those pictures, I could not believe my eyes. The steering wheel was melted together into a U-shape. The driver’s side door, dash and inside roof were completely melted. Basically everything was scorched and burned except the front seat where Regina had been sitting. There was no way that either of us should have crawled out of that car without being burned. Yet I knew that we did. Then and only then did I truly realize that God really did care about every hair on my head.

~Annette Rasp

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