Narrow escapes, ever had one? On October 17, a pleasant Monday, Dave and I traveled toward New Mexico in the Peterbilt tractor, pulling a load of pipe. The fresh plowed fields near I-20 in West Texas and blustery wind had already gritted the air, but that dust was minimum, compared to what we experienced after dark.
A cold front had moved into North Texas, a 75 mph dust storm, called a “haboob,” tossing tons of dirt into the air. “Haboob” is an Arabic word for a massive sand storm, usually occurring only in North African deserts. The storm hit Lubbock during daylight hours, however, by the time it reached our location on I-20, between Abilene and Big Springs, it was after nine o’clock and very dark.
Dave said, “It looks like black smoke ahead,” just as a Cadillac in front of us braked suddenly. Dave pulled into the fast lane to avoid hitting them, and that’s when we ran into the wall of black swirling dirt. It obliterated the road. We could barely see a faint glow of the headlights, but no visible road. The high winds sandblasted the truck, and all Dave could do was steer, step on brakes, and start gearing down.
Then we felt the truck leave the interstate, our direction unknown. We sensed going down an embankment and up again and crossing different levels of ground. We felt as if we hit 50 things before our 80,000-pound rig and load finally stopped. I was on the phone with our daughter, Sheryle, during our entire wild ride.
Right before all this happened I told her, “We’re hitting some fierce wind.” She went on the scary ride with us via her cell phone. I'm sure it was very frightening for her as I said, "Oh God, we've left the road. We're having a wreck."
"Mom, what's happening? Are you okay?"
"I don't know. We’re still having the wreck...Okay we’ve stopped. We’re okay. I’ll call you back.” I asked Dave, "Where are we?” "I don't know. I think we hit a bridge."
He grabbed a flashlight and jumped out to check the truck, having no idea where we were. He later told me he thought we were in the median, partially in oncoming traffic. We actually had missed any surrounding vehicles, crossed in front of the Cadillac and traveled down and off the roadway. We then went up another embankment, crossed the feeder road and ended up in the ditch next to a plowed field. I couldn't even open the door of the truck the wind was pushing so hard. Dirt blew perpendicular to the ground.
The husband and wife in the Cadillac stopped high above us on the shoulder of the interstate, and the wife braved stinging dirt to check on us. Dave still couldn’t tell where we were, but she told us we were to the right of the feeder going west. By then Dave had inspected his load. No pipe had shifted. We had not blown any tires. Not one scratch on the truck or us, and we were especially relieved that the folk in the Cadillac were okay.
We counted our blessings, and Dave eased the truck back onto the feeder where we drove several miles until the initial brunt of the swirling darkness died down. Sheryle later texted: “The minute you said you were getting into high wind, I said a quick prayer, “Lord, protect them.”
Emily, a young mother, related her harrowing close call to me: Her husband and children were meeting family at their farm. Five-month-old daughter, Kaitlyn, had a cough, so Emily took a hot bath, and sat Kaitlyn in her car seat beside the tub, hoping the steam would ease her breathing.
Emily heard a loud bang and saw pieces of the wall in her bath water. After looking around, the family found a small hole in the wall behind Emily’s back and a hole in an opposite cabinet -- lodged inside a bullet, possibly from illegal hog hunters in the area. The bullet holes were just inches from where little Kaitlin sat and where Emily had bathed. Emily said, “I am so thankful that Kaitlyn and I weren't hurt. God was watching over us.” When rescues happen, we take comfort in knowing God has his eyes on sparrows, paths of big trucks, windstorms, paths of bullets, and us.
Close calls can leave one trembling. God’s miraculous sparings, through his power and his angels, remind us of at least two things: First, God keeps track of where we are and what’s happening in our lives. Second, if we’re still on Earth, he designated that we have more days. Have you had any narrow escapes this year or in the past?
On this Thanksgiving in the year of our Lord 2011, knowing that God will protect us until it’s time for him to welcome us home – now that’s delicious food for thought!
Index card verse for week 47: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).