Teen car crashes and angels among us

Aug. 27, 2012 at 1:08 PM ET

Courtesy Carolyn Savage /
Drew Savage, next to his car that got totaled in an accident.

When I became a mom I eagerly anticipated all my children’s firsts.  I dreamt of the first cry, first cuddle and first smile.  I craved the first step and couldn’t wait to sink my son’s fingers into his first snow.  And the first time he babbled the word, “mama”—well I could hardly stand the wait.  I do have a realistic streak in me so I knew not all the firsts were going to pleasant.  I’d read, “What to Expect the First Year” so I’d thought I was prepared.

Oh the naivety!

Turns out there were plenty of firsts that have caught me off guard, the humdinger of them being the first car accident.  We tackled that first just a few weeks ago and as terrifying as it was, it left me not only counting my blessings, but also reminded me that us moms form a sisterhood. 

You see one mom played pinch-hitter for me on that day.

I’d been waiting for the first accident since my son got his license.  I’ll never forget my first day as the mother of a driving teen.   I watched Drew pull out of our garage as I stood in my window, suppressing  my urge to encase him in bubble wrap.  I reminded myself--Every mother endures this.  I have to let him go.  It was then that the waiting began. 

I knew the statistics.

According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in 15 to 19 years old.  Male teenagers, within their first year of licensure, are at the greatest risk.  Add a teen passenger into a car driven by another teen, and the risk goes up—exponentially.  Considering Drew fell into those categories, and usually drove his fifteen year old brother around, I’ve spent a lot of time waiting—and worrying—and praying.

The call arrived differently than I’d imagined it.  Instead of Drew calling, it was Ryan.  And it wasn’t, “There’s been an accident”.  It was, “Mom, someone hit us.  We’ve been in a bad accident!”

Upon hearing his words, my mind flooded with questions, “Why isn’t Drew calling?  Is everyone okay? Did you say the accident was bad?  How bad is bad?”

Meanwhile, people around me kept going about their business as if all were okay.  I managed to squelch the instinct to scream at them, “Stop what you’re doing.  Something’s wrong with my child,” and instead grabbed my keys to rush out the door—when it hit me.  I was out of town.  There was no way to get to them.

So I started to question Ryan, quickly ascertaining that Drew was bleeding;  911 had been called;  they were sitting safely in the median and a lady was with them.  Growing annoyed with my hysterics, Ry assured me they weren’t dying, said he’d call back in a few, and hung up the phone.

And there I stood. 

My purse clutched tightly in one hand, my keys in the other, with no means to assist, left only to think. 

Did he say a lady was with them?

Drew later told me that after the crash people appeared out of nowhere.  Some stopped their cars.  Others ran out of storefronts.  All of them trying to help.  One was a woman, I’m betting a mom.  She saw my two boys and immediately assumed my role.  She wrapped Drew’s arm in a towel and sat him gently in the grass.  She brushed the glass from his hair and calmed him by explaining what to expect.  It was a few minutes before the firemen arrived, but she waited with my boys making sure they were safe.  

She mothered them when I couldn’t, which is a first for me. 

Over the past two weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the accident.  Everyone involved escaped with minor injuries, which is somewhat miraculous considering all three cars were totaled.  I’m grateful for our good fortune because I’m aware of the stats.  I can check that “first” off my list, while counting my blessings. 

It’s the other “first” from the accident that has bred nothing but hope.  The woman who stayed with my kids was a perfect stranger to our family.  She had no obligation to step up, but in that vulnerable moment, on that very scary day, she mothered my children.  I know a little something about mothering another woman’s child.  I’ve stood in her shoes and made the same decision, fully aware that I didn’t have to assist.  So I’m thankful for her compassion and kindness.   It’s reminded me of the responsibility us moms have towards each other. 

Carolyn Savage is the author of Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, The Baby We Couldn’t Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift.  When not worrying about her five children and husband, Sean, she can be found flying by the seat of her pants at 


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