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The night I was shaken into reality - Jason Smith

I've been working at this office for nearly a year now. So many things have happened in my life at this time, many of which I've had the opportunity to write about in this space.

But, as I sit here and write this, I can't help thinking that the last year might not have happened at all, were it not for the grace of God intervening at, quite possibly, the scariest moment of my life.

It was a cold Friday night in December of 2006. My wife and I were driving home from my cousin's house in Loganville, entirely too late, as usual. Having just come through a difficult time financially, my wife and I were talking about our plans for the future, which seemed to be getting just a little brighter.

Then, it happened.

There was a dog in the middle of the road.

I swerved to try to avoid hitting him with my wife's car, but I heard a thump as the car lost control.

The car slid across the road and into a ditch, striking a tree in someone's yard.

After making sure my wife was all right, I got out of the car and assessed the damage. The car was beyond repair, and I knew it. The trunk of the car had plowed into the tree, and the two rear tires were mangled from having hit the curb on the way into the ditch.

The scariest part of the evening, however, was yet to come.

As I sat back down in the car and waited for help to arrive, I started shaking. At first, I thought it was because of the low temperatures, but I knew something was wrong when I couldn't stop for several minutes. The shaking just got worse.

I shook for nearly an hour. I remember it clearly, too, because other than my shaking fit, there was nothing wrong with me. I was not hurt in any way, and I wasn't bleeding at all. I had been under a lot of stress in the weeks leading up to the wreck, and I think hitting that tree just brought all that stress to a boiling point.

The ambulance arrived a few minutes later, as did my dad and brother. My lips quivered when I would answer anyone's questions. I was terrified, and had no idea what was happening to me.

Strangely enough, I remember asking someone, in my frightened state, what had become of the dog on the road. My wife confirmed that I had hit him, and I became even more emotional.

After a few minutes of getting myself wrapped in a blanket in the back of an ambulance, I finally calmed down. Eventually, I got some sleep, but I was still a basket case for the next couple of days. It seemed like anytime someone would talk to me, I would well up with tears.

I knew I had to pull it together the Sunday after the wreck. That was the day that I was scheduled to have an interview for a job at a certain newspaper in Henry County.

Looking back, I am oddly grateful that my cousin called me that Sunday afternoon to check on me. As soon as he asked how I was doing, I completely lost it. As my wife went into the house, she suggested I stay in the car and deal with whatever needed to be dealt with.

I cried harder than I had in years, for 20 solid minutes.

But, a strange thing happened after that.

I was fine. There were no more tears, and there wasn't that overly stressed feeling inside me that had led to my shaking fit.

I put on my tie, went to my interview and, eventually, got the job. That job has led to many great experiences, with this very column among them.

In the days immediately following that scary experience, I told people that if I ever found myself in a similar situation again, I would run over the dog and pay for whatever repairs were necessary. But as I look back now on that cold December night, I can see so many good things that came out of that horrifying wreck. I am less stressed now, and I have a deeper appreciation for so many people who cared for me during one of the scariest times of my life.

Don't get me wrong. I won't go looking for trouble. But, that experience taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that God is in control all the time, particularly when I admit I am not.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161, or via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.