A Car Crash and the Aftermath

Last Friday was my son’s 3rd birthday. The next day was when we planned on celebrating with family and friends. I woke up Saturday morning a little behind schedule. I ran around the house trying to get myself and the kids ready. Little did I know my rushing was in vain.

My husband, kids, and I piled in the car. We were headed to a local pizza spot and arcade around the corner–any 3 year-old boy’s dream birthday location.

There we sat at a red light waiting for it to turn green.

My son suddenly said, “Daddy, your seak belk.” Translation: seat belt. My husband had left the house without putting it on. “You’re right, buddy. Thanks,” he said as he reached down and clicked his seat belt into place.

15 seconds later, an SUV slammed into our car.

In every other accident I have ever been in, there has always been warning. I could foresee the collision about to take place. This accident left us with no warning. We were sitting at the light about to celebrate our son’s birthday, the car loaded with gifts and a chocolate robot cake when–BAM!

It felt like the most violent ride I have ever been on. I heard metal careening, glass breaking, a scream, a whimper. It felt as if it happened in slow motion and, yet, it was over in a split second.

As my head flew forward, followed by my torso and then backwards again, I looked down at my belly. I saw my 8-month pregnant stomach seize up from the force and the pressure of the collision.

Immediately, everything seemed to fall silent, until I heard my husband’s voice. “Oh my God,” he said. He looked up into the rear view mirror. “Oh sir!” he said, as if the man who had just hit us could hear him. He looked back to see if the kids were okay.

I looked down, as if remembering that I was pregnant and I grabbed my stomach. I clenched it tight as though my hands could somehow protect the child inside, after the fact.

My husband sprang from the car and grabbed our son from the backseat. I sat frozen for what seemed like an eternity. I heard my daughter crying. I made my way out of  my seat and reached her. I think I said “It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.”

My kids were now standing on the sidewalk and I dropped to my knees, still clenching my belly and I began to cry. I was scared, not for myself, or even my husband or my kids. They seemed fine. I was scared for the baby growing inside me. Isn’t it my job to keep this baby safe?

My husband appeared and began to pray for me. He placed his hand on my belly. I don’t remember exactly what he said…”peace, presence, Lord, protection…” But I do remember this: “Lord, help Nicole to know that this is not her fault.”

Does my husband know me that well, did the Spirit just speak that to him, or both? How did he know that I would sit blaming myself as if  I had any control over the man driving 40 mph into the back of our car. How did he know I would think, if only I had left earlier by myself to set up for the party, but I had been running late. If only I hadn’t recently changed my daughter’s car seat in order to make room for the coming baby, perhaps she wouldn’t be so sore now. And on and on it could go….

Eventually the EMTs arrived. “We’re just taking extra precautions because of the baby,” they said. Fine. I had to ride in an ambulance. Not my favorite moment, but in reality I was too shaken up, weak, and disoriented to fight it.

We spent 4 hours at the hospital. The baby and I were monitored, tested, examined. We both passed with flying colors. Jonathan felt the letdown of adrenaline at the hospital, as well. Once he left husband/father mode–tending to each of us in superhero fashion–he began to crash.

Doctors checked him, too, and he eventually began to feel better. We sat there in our hospital room replaying what we could and also making jokes if there were any to be made. But mostly, we were thanking God. “It could have been so much worse,” we uttered. “Praise God we  are all okay.”

By the time we made it home, the soreness had begun to set in. We moved slowly and tenderly. Ribs, neck, back, wrists swollen or aching.When we walked into our house I noticed our kitchen’s chalkboard fridge. A week or so earlier, my husband had written: “HE REIGNS.”

Around it, however, had been drawn a raincloud with rain drops streaming down. We both looked at it and smiled. So simple, yet so true. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it actually pours…but He Reigns. He. Reigns.

When was a time when God reigned in your life despite the “rain” of difficult circumstances?

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44 thoughts on “A Car Crash and the Aftermath”

  1. Wow, what a story and I’m so glad that you are all OK. I never take for granted how a small second can change our lives. In all things we should find enough breath to mutter “praise God, He reigns”.

    Stay safe out there Nicole and do listen to God and your husband. Is not your fault.

    Thank God you are all OK. I’m joining you both in praising God for your family’s safety.

  2. Wiping the tears from my eyes as I read this. Wow. I’ve been here only a couple of months, but the details of your life readily bypass my emotional defense systems. God is good to have protected you in that moment.

    Thrilled that everything appears to be okay.

    Praying blessings on you and yours!

    1. The driver was an elderly man. My husband immediately went over to his car, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t talk.

      Later we learned from the police officer on the scene that the man was Polish and spoke very little English. He also refused medical attention and would not let the EMT’s exam him.

      My husband and I prayed for him. I’m sure he was so scared and confused. Seeing two children and a pregnant woman emerge from the car must have been devastating, as well.

      Please pray for him too.

    1. Matt,
      Yes, we do know better. My parents who arrived at the scene minutes later are not believers.

      We were able to share that story with them later. My mom called it “intuition” but I have no doubt she sensed that there was more at play. Our God was protecting us.

  3. Nicole,

    After the storm, when that rainbow appears, we remember that He is truly Sovereign.

    I cried as I read this post. I admit it. Not out of fear or worry, but out of gratitude and thankfulness.

    Thank You, Father, for Your grace and mercy on the Cottrell family. You are indeed a good God.

    1. Donald,
      Thank you friend for your care and concern for our family.

      I think I will forever remember this incident as proof of His faithfulness. If ever I doubt, may this moment come to my mind.

      He is so very Good.

  4. My goodness, I am so glad that you all are ok! God is so good and I pray that you all recover from all of you aches very soon. Thank God and know that its not your fault and in every day there is always a lesson. Your last paragraph let’s me know that you have received it. God bless.

    1. Latoya,
      Thank you and yes, I have received it. I am not willing to sit in guilt when all I can really do is be humbled in praise.

      I thank God He allowed me to realize that immediately.

  5. Praise God for His protection. Like others have said, I am also wiping tears away. I am so glad that God kept all 5 of you safe. He most definitely reigns.

  6. Oh my goodness. I am so glad to hear everyone is okay. You’re husband is a good man.

    My family was in a near fatal car crash 5 years ago. Took 19 emergency personnel 2 hours to get me out of the car, but my wife and son got out quickly with only minor injuries.

    Thank God for protecting you. Hope the aftermath (insurance, new car, etc) goes as smooth as possible.

    1. Wow. I cannot imagine what you must have gone through, not to mention your wife and son. I’m sure you had a new appreciation for God’s provision following that.

      Thanks too. We hope all of the details following run smoothly, as well. I’m dreading some of it, but knowing that once again He will provide.

  7. Wow – how terrifying and I am SO glad you, your family and your little bean are ok. Despite all the trauma involved, what a testimony to the Holy Spirit living and active in your lives. Yes, He reigns indeed!

  8. Nicole, this post moved me emotionally in so many ways. I think that part that got me the most was when your husband prayed over you and he knew exactly what you needed to hear. I am sure your husband knows you very well but in circumstances like that words of wisdom and comfort that hit exactly where you need them are spoken by people who are in tuned with and obedient to the Spirit. Praise God for His protection and your safety and Praise Him for the relationship of obedience and discipleship He has honed and created in your family. He does indeed Reign. Bless His might name!

    1. Carla,
      You are so right. You know what’s crazy is after he read this post, he told me he doesn’t even remember praying that for me. So cool. The Spirit just took over and he listened. It was, of course, exactly what I needed to hear. It is pretty amazing to me that with his wife crying, kids standing in a daze immediately following a car crash, adrenaline pumping through him at a furious rate, my husband was in tune with the Spirit.

      Thank you for pointing that out to me and helping me to see yet another way in which God provided.

  9. Okay, this might be a fringe issue, but now that I know that everyone is okay physically, it seems important: Will Tolan get another party?

    1. Great question and an important one to a certain little 3 year old boy. Honestly, I’m not sure. Both sets of grandparents and his aunt took him and Riley home where they had cake and opened presents.

      He seemed pretty satisfied. We might take him to Chuck E Cheese and call it a day. Plus, you can bet that for his next birthday, I am going to go BIG!

  10. Nicole,
    Thanks for sharing this with us. Glad that you, the baby, and the family are okay. He reigns, indeed.

    We had a similar scare with our second girl – my wife was side-swiped, her car did a 360, and it was in the middle of a busy intersection. It was a tense situation, and one that we look back at with gratefulness because of the protection that she and the kids received.

    1. Oh Dustin, how scary that must have been for you and your wife and kids. I cannot imagine.

      As much as it sucks, is scary, and difficult after wards–isn’t it still a great reminder of God’s Faithfulness in our lives to have such events take place….I’m appreciative.

  11. Definitely have tears in my eyes after reading this, thank God you and your family are all safe!

    And praise God that your husband responded in the way he did, for his calm love and gumption to pray when you were silently screaming for it. And for your son potentially saving him by pointing out his seat belt and… oh my!

    Hope you are feeling much better, God’s peace be with you all and with the person who was in the other car…

  12. Nicole,
    When Jonathan posted that your family had been in an accident, I began to pray for all of you. Especially for your unborn baby and for God’s loving arms to engulf you and for the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart words of encouragement and peace and to protect you and your unborn child.
    I couldn’t go to sleep until Jonathan had posted that all of your family were safe. I prayed without ceasing for God’s protection over your family. I prayed for you especially….that the power of God’s word and the Holy Spirit would protect you on the battlefield of your mind as Satan would try to bring doubts and guilt to you…I pray for you to be fill with peace that only the Lord can give you.

    I am thankful for your honesty on this blog.
    You are blessed with a wonderful man of God in your life as your husband.
    God’s faithfulness “REIGNS”!

  13. Honestly, this is the best post I’ve seen you write. I just wish the circumstances weren’t a true story. And I’m praising God that all of you are fine.

    1. Well, thanks Jason. Considering I wrote it while half-asleep, in pain, and foggy headed either it is a magnificent post or my other posts are junk. Maybe it’s the content, but as you said I don’t want to go around getting in car crashes everyday just to have a good topic.

      Thank you for the well wishes!

  14. Your story made me tear up…I also think part that you’re such an excellent story teller!!! Anyways this week I went and saw soul surfer, and one of the things that really stuck with me while watching that is that sometimes… god give us things to see and deal with things in a different perspective. Even though your husband had already wrote “he reigns”, I bet you saw it in a new perspective as soon as you got home. IN all honesty that’s so crazy that, happened to you guys I am extremely glad that you guys are ok. God definitely only gives us things that we can handle….

  15. I’m so glad you and your family are OK. What a scary thing!

    I was a teacher a few years ago, and it was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. Ever. It was horrible. I didn’t even make it through the first school year. I had JUST gone back to school for my teaching certification, and this was my first job—at an inner city charter school. I quit suddenly because I was going to have a mental breakdown. I felt like a failure.

    But now that I have my son, looking back I see it was what needed to happen. I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom. I thought I’d be an awful mom altogether. If I’d had a cushy teaching job, I’d still be teaching instead of staying home with my son. I’m a completely different person now, and it turns out I’m a super great mom. And I wouldn’t have figured this out if I hadn’t had that awful teaching job.

    God knows what he’s doing even when we don’t. Which is totally awesome.

    1. I love that Rachel. What an awesome testimony to the Lord in your life. I love how He can use some of our worst, most painful, terrible, yucky experiences to them bring Him glory and allow us to be obedient to something we would have initial said “no” to–like being a stay-home mom.

  16. Oof. I feel for you! I was in a horrible car wreck almost two years ago, and to this day I thank God I came out of it alive. (Full story is here: http://parenthoodexperiment.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-i-became-honorary-octogenarian.html) A friend who’s a former EMT said that she’d seen accidents not as severe as mine that she’d pulled dead people out of. (Isn’t that comforting?) Fortunately, I was alone in the car–my kids were with my folks, who live a little over an hour from us, and they’d literally just gotten into their driveway when Hubby called to say I’d been in an accident. Given that I was on my way home from the dentist, trips now to the dentist are far more nerve-wracking than normal. I saw it coming and knew it was unavoidable, and to this day, I have not gotten back on the stretch of road where the accident happened. (For those who don’t want to read the whole story, I had two breaks in my right wrist from the airbag deployment, and four broken bones in my right ankle, two of which required surgery. I didn’t walk for six weeks. I had to use a platform walker to get around. Fun times.) I know how scary it is to be terrified for your family after an accident…I was, even though I was alone in the car! (Well, if you see the picture of the wreck, I was obviously NOT alone, because I’m sure there were angels around aplenty.) As I spent the next week in the hospital, I came up with lots of what-ifs: what if I hadn’t backtracked to pick up 997 when I missed the turn? What if I’d taken 16 home? What if I’d dawdled at the dentist’s, or stopped for an ice cream cone at McDonald’s? Despite the injury, the long recovery, the 10 weeks spent living with my folks, the countless hours of therapy and doctor’s appointments, the multiple pain meds, in looking back, I can see why God had allowed it all to happen. I don’t necessarily LIKE it much; I still have ankle pain from the screws put in to fix me up. All of my what-ifs do nothing to change reality. However, I’m alive. My car was totaled (we needed a new one anyway), but I came out alive.

    I’m grateful that you were not seriously hurt, and that the baby is okay. You’ll all survive, recover from the stress, and that intersection will be a bit emotionally hairy for awhile.

    Hang in there! (And let yourself cry if you need to. Trust me, it helps you process out the emotional trauma.)

  17. Hi Nicole,

    I’ve thought about your post overnight and want to add to my comment.

    Every once in a while, something happens in an instant that makes us say, “Well, this changes everything”.

    It sounds as though this accident is one of those occasions for your family.

    I suspect that the Lord sends such happenings, large or small, into our lives to re-orient us, to reveal how fragile our treasures are, and how much He loves us.

    The one thing that struck me most about the incident was your husband’s reaction. You’ve got a winner there! Hold him in high regard.

    John Cowart

  18. My first time commenting over here.

    Wow..that’s crazy. Glad that you and your family are okay!

    That same thing actually happened to my sister…she was at a light, and a car just crashed into her from the back. It was a scary situation, but thankfully everyone was okay!

  19. I’m just so glad you and baby and the others are ok. :( I’ve never been in a serious crash, and I am so thankful. How scary!!

  20. Its does rain. Its pouring in fact. Hammering and drowning a marriage that’s no longer a union but a battleground. Lies and harmful words. No longer a priority or a hero. Yes it sure does rain. Someday maybe I can say He Reigns! But lately… It just rains. Thankyou for your story. I’m greatful no one was hurt and that baby is ok too. He does reign…maybe its easier to see after the storm passes by…

  21. I so identify with your feelings. My wife was riding on the back of a motorcycle when she was hit from behind by a large SUV. She was riding to attend her last class of a language intensive for a tribal language used here in Paraguay. A friend of ours was driving her to classes everyday because I was barely 2 months out of open-heart surgery and didn’t have permission to drive.

    It was a direct hit from the vehicle right above her knee. Her femur was essentially shattered. A surgery, a plate and screws, and prayer have brought us to 5 months later where she has re-learned to walk. we go to therapy Mon-Fri.

    She faces more surgery and therapy and the law down here isn’t very promising. As of now the driver not only hasn’t assisted in paying for the care, but he filed a complaint against my wife for damaging his vehicle. In it all

    HE REIGNS.

  22. I am very glad it wasn’t worse. I so identify with your feelings. My wife was riding on the back of a motorcycle when she was hit from behind by a large SUV. She was riding to attend her last class of a language intensive for a tribal language used here in Paraguay. A friend of ours was driving her to classes everyday because I was barely 2 months out of open-heart surgery and didn’t have permission to drive.

    It was a direct hit from the vehicle right above her knee. Her femur was essentially shattered. A surgery, a plate and screws, and prayer have brought us to 5 months later where she has re-learned to walk. we go to therapy Mon-Fri.

    She faces more surgery and therapy and the law down here isn’t very promising. As of now the driver not only hasn’t assisted in paying for the care, but he filed a complaint against my wife for damaging his vehicle. In it all

    HE REIGNS.

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