Editor's Note: Brenton Blanchet, who recently interned at The Gazette, is now the editor-in-chief of The Spectrum: The Independent Student publication at the University at Buffalo. This piece was originally published in The Spectrum Sept. 9.
I can’t wrap my head around where I am right now.
Where I am right now, on this Tuesday afternoon, is on a train to Buffalo from Schenectady. My head is pounding, my body aches and I desperately need sleep. After everything I’ve gone through in the last day, I fully understand why I’m on this train.
But what I am struggling with is comprehending how much my life has changed in just 24 hours.
A day ago, I wasn’t in any pain. I was listening to my favorite summer albums, driving my new car down I-90 westbound and excited to start a new school year. I just purchased the car –– my first ever –– that week and finally had something of my own that I worked all summer for.
But it was taken away from me in just three seconds.
And it almost took me with it.
I was driving in the left lane going 65 around Oneida and saw a small trailer drift into my lane. Instinctively, I turned my wheel to avoid it, lost control of my vehicle and, from there, all I could do was grip on to my wheel, slam my brake and pray.
My car went through the median, hitting wet grass and accelerating into oncoming eastbound traffic.
My airbags all went off and took over my whole vision.
I couldn’t see anything. I had absolutely no way to stop myself from what was about to happen to me.
I vaguely remember hitting something and slamming into a guardrail. It happened so fast and it was hard to even make sense of it.
At the time, I didn’t know I flew into a tan minivan, striking the back of the vehicle and causing it to roll over three times. My car kept moving and eventually crashed into a highway guardrail.
When I opened my door and stepped outside, I screamed. I was staring at everything I worked for this summer, completely and utterly finished. The front of my vehicle was destroyed, my wheel popped off, my windshield was nearly shattered and all of my belongings were scattered around the inside of the car.
Then I looked over and saw the car I hit, in a similar condition: airbags released and windows broken.
Without hesitating, looking at myself in a mirror or even making sure I was in one piece, I sprinted to check on the other driver.
He was fine, just shaken up. I ran back to my vehicle in tears, realizing I walked out of the car with only a bruise on my nose.
I was really, really lucky.
A passing driver named Mary stopped to keep me company and gave me guidance through it all. She was the first person to tell me I was blessed to be alive after what happened.
After her, it was the doctors, the insurance company, the police officers, my family and everybody else I told the story to.
And I’ve been reminding myself of it every minute since.
Every breath I’ve taken since the accident, every friend who has told me they love me and every word I type may not have been possible if I hadn’t reacted how I did, if I hadn’t had a seatbelt on or if the guardrail didn’t stop me from flying any further.
I realize, as I’m writing this, that life is something that can be taken from you in seconds. If anything were to happen to me yesterday, I would’ve missed out on a lot. Weddings. Achievements. New music.
I’m thankful to be here, I’m thankful to have another day of growing and doing what I love, which is running this newspaper, and I’m thankful to still be around for my family and loved ones.
I only have so much time here and I’m going to use it to be everything I was meant to be:
A writer and –– more importantly –– my best self.
Brenton Blanchet, who recently interned at The Gazette, is the editor-in-chief of The Spectrum: The Independent Student publication at the University at Buffalo. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @BrentonBlanchet.