Near Death Experience No.6
I'm not sure you can really call this a near-death experience, because it doesn't contain the usual visions of tunnels, white light, and so on. But I was definitely in danger of dying.
It was the spring of my sophomore year in college, and I had taken a term away from school to work as an intern in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. A couple of months into my internship, the congressman I was working for decided to sell his car and wanted me to drive it to Toledo, Ohio, to deliver it to the person who was buying it. I had never driven such a long distance alone before, so I was a little leery about it, but I thought it would be okay since I would be driving only during daylight hours and I had always been a safe driver, having had no accidents or speeding tickets or even parking violations.
About halfway through the trip, I was driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike along a section where the road has no bends or hills for ten or twelve miles. I remember that, but I apparently went into some sort of road hypnosis at that point, because I have no memory of the last few miles before the accident. At a place where the road finally made a bend to the right, I apparently just kept going straight and at full speed I ran into a concrete pillar that was holding up an overpass. This was 1963 and there were no airbags.
Even the seat belts just went across your waist.
I don't remember the actual impact, of course, but I came to and realized that I had crashed into something and that I was bleeding a lot. I didn't feel much pain, but the top part of the steering wheel had snapped off and my chest near my armpits was impaled on the jagged ends of the remaining bottom arc of the steering wheel. I could raise my right hand, which I did in order to feel my face, which was covered in blood and had bits of glass in it. I touched my right cheek, and to my surprise, my hand went right through it because it had been ripped open in the crash.
(Later I was to learn that part of my scalp had also been torn off.) I began to struggle to get myself unpinned from the steering wheel.
Just then a voice spoke to me, saying I should not struggle or even move if possible, because I was causing the bleeding to worsen and I might bleed to death. I looked to my right and realized that it was an elderly gentleman sitting in the passenger seat who was speaking to me. He seemed kind and very concerned, but otherwise he was quite ordinary. He was gray-haired and was dressed casually in a sweater-vest and a tweed jacket. He told me that an ambulance would be there soon and not to worry, because if I remained calm and didn't move too much, I would be all right.
I faded out again for a while and the next thing I remember, they were putting me on a gurney and into the ambulance. I had emergency treatment in the hospital, which included lots of stitching and piecing together of the skin of my cheek, forehead, and scalp, but amazingly I had not broken any bones. (The doctor later told me that in view of the condition of the car, which he had been shown pictures of, he found this fact to be almost incredible.)
I was in the hospital for nearly two weeks, and when I was released, a Pennsylvania state trooper came to the hospital to arrest me for "reckless driving." In the police car on the way to the police station where they were going to book me, I related to him what I remembered of the accident, and he disbelievingly said, "Were you on drugs or something?" I assured I most certainly was not a drug or alcohol user. He took me too the place where the remains of the car had been impounded and showed me the car. "See," he said, "there's no way anybody could have gotten into the front seat with you." Indeed, to my shock, the engine block had been pushed back so far in the impact that the passenger side of the front seat had been completely crushed in.
But in my memory of the accident, the elderly gentleman was as real as anyone. The memory of his appearance and his voice warning me and reassuring me was as clear as any "real" memory could be. I was a pretty scientifically, even perhaps materialistically oriented person before that, but I often wondered afterwards, if the old gent wasn't really physically present in the car, was he perhaps a spiritual being, like an angel or the equivalent, who had come to help me in that life-or-death moment.