By Annette Weis
Originally printed in the March - April 2005 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Weis, Annette. "A Thanksgiving Presence." Quest 93.2 (MARCH - APRIL 2005):55-56
The day before Thanksgiving several years ago, I drove from northern New Jersey to Boston to pick up my daughter and two other girls for the holiday. I had agreed to give the two girls a ride to a stop on the New York Thruway, where their parents would meet them. Because of the number of people and the luggage, I chose to take our big old station wagon.
The day was overcast and the trip definitely had the feeling of preholiday travel. When I arrived in the picturesque college town north of Boston, it started to snow. The girls were waiting anxiously to go home, and I had not stopped more than once on the way because I was also eager to return before nightfall.
The girls got comfortable in the backseat for the long drive while my daughter sat up front. The traffic was already heavier on the interstate than it had been just an hour before. When we reached the Massachusetts Turnpike, it was like a horror film. Not only was the traffic dense but everyone was traveling way over the speed limit. To drive the speed limit or only slightly above was dangerous because the other cars sped past in a blur. Luckily, the snow showers had stopped.
I was driving in the right lane of the turnpike, squeezed between two sixteen wheelers. The one behind me was so close to my tailgate that one of the girls in the backseat commented about how close the truck was, even though we were driving at 80 mph. The truck driver gave no indication of wanting to pass me, so when the traffic cleared, I moved into the middle lane in order to pass the truck in front of me.
Suddenly, the truck in front decided to move into the middle lane as I was passing him! There was heavy traffic in the left lane with no opportunity to shift into that lane. The side flasher was about a foot from my daughter's head as the semi kept moving toward us. The girls in the back rolled down the window and began shouting at the driver, while I and the car behind me honked our horns. I had to choose either to move into the left lane and take my chances or definitely have the right side of the car cut off by the truck. We were still traveling at 80 mph just to keep up with traffic. If I slowed down, the back half of the truck was sure to hit us square on. I swung to the left with such speed and at such an angle that I landed horizontally in the left lane with the front half of the car on the left shoulder and the back of the car projecting into the left lane of traffic. The right bumper hit the dividing rail.
Everything came to a halt. All traffic behind us stopped in a straight line. The truck that almost hit us sped away, oblivious to what had happened. A tall man with dark wavy hair wearing a colorful plaid flannel shirt with suspenders faced us with his back to the traffic and his arms extended to stop the traffic. Somehow, the girls in the back of the car got out and walked across the highway to the right shoulder. My daughter and I stayed in the car and followed the man's hand directions to the larger right shoulder. There I was able to examine the car and found a small dent in the fender but felt the car was okay to continue to a rest stop. Traffic now was speeding by so fast that I felt scared to open the car door to get in. Before doing so, I turned to thank the man, but he was nowhere to be found.
All four of us were shaking and drove in silence to the next rest stop. After we had had a few minutes to collect ourselves, I commented that I didn't know what would have happened without the stranger's help and that I didn't understand how he could have appeared so quickly and done what he did. I felt terrible about not being able to express my gratitude. The girls asked, "What man?"
My daughter thought she saw someone but wasn't really sure. She did wonder how we made it across the highway to the right shoulder of the road. I know how we did, and the whole incident has changed my life. It has given me strength to make some major decisions and has influenced me in many ways that I cannot begin to describe. Even as I write this, tears of gratitude flow for my Thanksgiving presence.
Annette Weis is a member from New Jersey.