By Hallie Holton, 22, KU senior majoring in strategic communications, as told to Jackson Vickery
It was a Friday night when I flipped, my car that is.
I was driving 80 miles per hour on I-35 South, excited to get into Fort Worth, Texas, for my friend’s 21st birthday weekend. Only 45 minutes out and two miles from the Oklahoma-Texas border, I was feeling pretty great considering it was 11:30 p.m.
There wasn’t much to look at on the road. The last memorable sight was the sunset I saw a few hours before. My auxiliary chord and Spotify playlist were enough to get me through the tail end of this trip.
“Willie,” my car’s name, was in cruise control as I was sailing in the left-hand lane. The lights from the WinStar World Casino captured my attention. My head and eyes continued to follow those lights as my car started to drift left.
The bowl-sized rumble strips caught me off guard. The car was shaking. Within mere moments I had overcorrected.
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god,” I repeatedly screamed.
I could see the grey hood of my car nosedive into the ditch, which acted as the divide between the sides of traffic. During the flip I felt like I was floating until the car jolted to a stop.
My hands were grasped tightly to the steering wheel for 30 seconds until I started feeling myself. No cuts. I looked for my phone, which was previously in the cup holder. It ended up in the middle console. Phone in hand, I looked out of the window watching cars fly by in the opposite direction I was.
I unbuckled and unsuccessfully tried to open the driver side door. In this minute and a half window, cars had stopped to see what had happened. A man in his mid to late 30s came over and asked if I was okay. He too couldn’t open the driver’s side door.
As this was going on, my insides started shaking. I kept trying to take deep breaths and reassure myself that I was fine.
The man says from the back end of my car to come and walk through the trunk. I was barefoot. Holding onto whatever I could and stepping on glass that scattered the inside of the car, I made my way out. The last thing I remember seeing was the tripod-style lamp my mom had gotten me for my house back in Lawrence, left in the back of the trunk.
I walked across the lanes of traffic to a couple’s car. I sat there with my bare feet dangling, saying to myself, “Shit. What happened? Did I hit something?” The gravity of what just happened didn’t hit me until I saw my overturned car in the grass.
After that, multiple paramedics came to ask me if I needed to go to the hospital. The only scratch I had was a tiny one on my foot from the broken glass. A frenzied phone call with my mom followed, who was thousands of miles away in Seattle. She made sure to talk to every individual I did.
Before leaving, the paramedic asked if he could get anything from my car. I asked for my KU duffle bag and Birkenstocks. This was the last trip someone would take to my car.
I had gone on a lot of road trips before – St. Louis, Chicago, Gulf Shores. That night, “Willie” wouldn’t make it to Dallas. I was lucky though.
My car was totaled, but I was thankful for everyone who had helped me, from the paramedics to the state trooper to the couple who drove me to Fort Worth that night instead of spending their night at the WinStar.
The state trooper was right – if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt that night could have turned out much worse than just a cut on the foot and a headache the next morning.