Two years ago, when I was 16, I thought I would live forever. I would never have to be like other people. I was going to break out of the ordinary. It was junior year and I was already being scouted to play volleyball in college for full scholarships. My friends were great and I was getting the best grades ever.
One Friday just like an other - I went to school and then to volleyball. It had been a good day, I had no homework and I had fun plans for the weekend. After practice my friend Kris and I stuffed a lot of sports equipment in his little red and blue Beetle and headed to his house, just like we had done every other day that year.
The stoplight at the top of a hill about a mile from Kris' house was red, so we waited, talking about one of our teachers. There were no other cars there. The light turned green and we started to move. All of a sudden a Camaro going at least 65 m.p.h. came out of nowhere. It smashed into the side of our car, which spun around and around, flipped a few times and finally stopped when it smashed into a tree.
My leg was trapped, wedged between the seat and the door. I don't know how it got there. When the car flipped the first time my leg was freed. Crushed and shattered, I was thrown from the car. I saw the car smash into the tree and I wondered about Kris. Was he dead? Was he in the car? Neither one of us had been wearing seat belts.
I was in a frenzy, trying to find Kris but I was losing a lot of blood from cuts on my leg. I could not move my legs at all and had pain in my back. I tried to get up, but couldn't. I decided to move any way I could. This only left me the choice of pulling myself along with my arms. It was hard and slow. I was feeling faint. I wanted to lay down and sleep. I had a pain in my right arm that I had not noticed before. I had to find Kris. I started scream.
"Kris, Kris, where are you ... Kris, Kris!"
All I could think of was that he had died. I would have to go to his mom and tell her that I was sorry her son had died and I had lived. After what seemed like an eternity, I made my way up to the road. I saw him lying in a heap. I didn't know what to do. I could not help. I began to slip in and out of consciousness. I never made it to Kris.
I don't know how long we laid there with the smashed cars, glass, blood and people strung about the intersection or how long it was before someone came along. I don't remember the trip to the hospital or the next seven days. They had to do four operations to repair my leg and other broken parts. They could not fix my spine. I broke it in half one inch above my hipbone.
I woke up some time later to a room full of my crying family, which was not what I needed. I looked around and thought, I lived, wow. I asked in a quivering voice, "Where is Kris?" My mother looked at me with tears running down her checks.
"He's all right. He went home two days ago. I was so worried ..." I stopped listening.
Then a doctor asked how I was feeling. I don't know what he expected me to say. He started to tell me that my leg was crushed badly and they had to put pins, bolts and other metal pieces in it. He was telling me that my spine was broken and I would not be able to run, walk or move my legs. I still had movement in my arms and hands, but not my legs. I didn't want to hear that. I wanted to see all the people I loved.
The next day Kris and a bunch of kids from school came to see me, which was so nice. They were all happy that we were all right. I didn't even know half the kids. They brought a big poster other kids had signed. The art class made get-well cards for me.
When the kids left I got to talk to Kris. He told me that he was so scared I was going to die. He felt it was his fault that I was in the shape I was. I told him I felt the same thing about him and I could not have handled it if he died. We started to talk about happier things.
I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital getting poked and pinched to see how bad I was. I will never walk again, but that doesn't matter to me. They said it was amazing that we lived. The driver of the other car died on impact. After a while I was almost as good as new. My leg healed and they took some of the pins out.
The fact that I can't walk does not bother me anymore. At first it was hard to get used to not having legs when for 16 years I used them every day. Some days are still harder than others.
Months later we went to the spot where the accident happened. You could still see the tire marks and where the car had rolled. It really made me think. This accident was one of the worst and best things that ever happened to me. But I will live, and Kris will live. Now I know I am not invincible.
I found what really matters to me: friends, loved ones and enjoying life. I'm glad I have not had to deal with the loss of a friend. I know some day I will, but everyone I care about will live forever in my heart. I am thankful for the time I have and the people I have to share it with.
So, love your friends and family. Don't hold grudges. Do all that you can to be happy. Don't sweat the small stuff. Smile when you feel like crying. And always remember that you are alive and life is what you make it.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.