HOLD HER CLOSE

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In less than one week, Steve Young’s autobiography will finally go on sale. I say “finally” because it’s been a L-O-N-G time coming. As Steve’s collaborator, I’m as thrilled as I’ve ever been about the publication of a book.

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This post was intended to be about the book tour (see full tour schedule at the end of the post). But a potentially fatal accident involving my wife and daughter has reminded me how fragile life is and how quickly it can end. So I’m writing about that instead.

Last week I was in Virginia for the launch of the Institute for Writing and Mass Media. Lydia and Clara Belle joined me there so they could do some work on our farm and close up Lydia’s ice cream business for the season. At the end of the weekend we loaded some equipment into a UHAUL truck and started the long drive back to Connecticut. I led in the UHAUL and Lydia and Clara trailed in our Toyota 4Runner.

It was after 11 PM by the time we passed through the last toll booth on the New Jersey Turnpike. An 18-wheeler was in front of me as we approached a sign for the Vince Lombardi rest area. Suddenly the truck’s rear wheels came off. First I saw sparks from the rear axil dragging on the highway. Then I saw wheels careening across the freeway toward the Jersey barrier.

I immediately applied my breaks, which forced Lydia to slow down. This created distance between us and the truck, which was angling toward the shoulder. But one of the wheels, which had no tire tread left on it, ricocheted off the Jersey barrier and started bounding back across the highway at a high speed.

Helpless, I watched in my side view mirror and shouted “N-o-o-o-o!” as the wheel bounded right for our 4 Runner.

For a few seconds, the worst flashed through my mind – a speeding truck tire bouncing up over the hood and crashing through the windshield, striking my wife and my 10-year-old baby girl, who was strapped into the front passenger seat.

Then I heard the thud as I watched the tire slam into the front of the vehicle. I couldn’t tell if it bounced off of our 4Runner or ended up underneath it. But I expected to see Lydia lose control of the vehicle.

It was all I could do not to swerve into another lane as my eyes darted from the road to the mirror to the road and back to the mirror. Miraculously, Lydia guided the 4Runner to a stop on the shoulder, just past the 18-wheeler, which had grinded to a halt.

As vehicles sped by, I leaped from my truck and ran to Lydia and Clara. Nothing else matters when you are running toward a loved one in a moment of chaos and fear.

“Are you okay?” I shouted as I reached Lydia's window.

Miraculously, she was unscathed. So was Clara.

A chunk had been taken out of the underside of the bumper. Otherwise, the vehicle looked okay. The engine sounded fine too.

A few minutes later the 18-wheeler scooted past us and headed into the Vince Lombardi rest area. We followed and I approached the driver once he stopped.

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He apologized and provided his insurance card. Then I photographed his truck, focusing mainly on the rear axel where his tires used to be.

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I couldn’t get over Lydia’s poise under pressure. If she had panicked or tried swerving to avoid the approaching tire, she likely would have rolled the 4Runner or caused a multiple-vehicle accident.

Everything could have turned out differently. We’ve driven on I-95 through New Jersey and New York City hundreds of times. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen accidents, including plenty that resulted in fatalities. This was the first time that we were involved in one. If that tire had just bounced a little differently, or if Lydia had reacted differently, my whole world would be very dark right now.

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It was after 2 AM when we finally reached home. In the driveway I threw my arms around her and Clara and held onto them like there was no tomorrow. This entire incident was a stark reminder that we never know when there isn’t going to be a tomorrow …when the one or ones we love most might be gone.

I have a tremendous amount of stress in my life right now. Lately, my days start at 5AM and end after midnight. But ever since the accident on I-95 I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how glad I am that my wife and daughter are still with me. All of life’s other problems and challenges are not so bad.

When I brought our 4Runner to the collision expert at the Toyota dealership, he could not believe that the damage was not way more extensive. And when I spoke to the trucking company, a spokesman told me: “I always tell my friends and family to never drive near trucks on the highway. It’s way to dangerous.”

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As I said up top, the Institute for Writing and Mass Media got off to a great start. I’ve had many inquiries about how to make a contribution. The easiest way is to donate online by clicking the following link and choosing the “other” option and typing the words “Writing Institute.” Those who contribute $500 or more will receive a signed copy of Steve Young’s autobiography.

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Steve’s book tour starts Tuesday. He will do signings in Ridgewood, NJ; New York City; Greenwich, CT; San Francisco; Menlo Park, CA; Corte Madera, CA; Denver; Salt Lake City; Orem, UT; and Gilbert, AZ. No other signings are planned at this time.

Here is a rundown:

Tuesday, 10/11, 5:30 PM, Bookends, 211 E. Ridgewood, Av., Ridgewood, NJ
Wednesday, 10/12, 12 Noon, Barnes & Noble, 555 Fifth Avenue, NYC
Thursday, 10/13, 11 AM, Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA
Thursday, 10/13, 5 PM, Barnes & Noble, 313 Corte Madera Av, Corte Madera, CA
Saturday, 10/15, 2PM, Kepler’s, El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA
Monday, 10/24, 12 noon, Tattered Cover, 2526 E Colfax, Denver, CO
Tuesday, 10/25, 12 noon, City Creek Deseret Book, 45 W South Temple, SLC, UT
Tuesday, 10/25, 6PM, University Village, 1076 S 750 E, Orem, UT
Thursday, 11/3, 5PM, Deseret Book, 2894 Santan Village Pkway, Gilbert, AZ
Monday, 11/14, 10:30 AM, Greenwich High, 10 Hillside Rd., Greenwich, CT

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