Friday, September 29, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Cheyenne Olien


Only Seconds
Olien, Cheyenne
Grade: 12
School: Kindred High School, Kindred ND Educator: Tanya Neumiller
AWARD: Gold Key


It was a typical hot, windy North Dakota summer day. I had woken up late, which is unusual for me. Rushing to get ready, I threw on the first clothes I could find, grabbed a granola bar from the kitchen, and ran out the door. I hopped into my car and took off down my long driveway, probably going a little too fast, but I didn’t care. I could not be late for work. I was never late and I liked having that reputation. I liked knowing people knew they could count on me to be on time.

Turning out of my driveway, I knew I probably should have waited until the pickup, headed the direction I was going to be going, passed by but I went anyways. Knowing I had to pick up speed as fast as I could before the pickup caught up to me, I pushed the accelerator down a little too much. If you have ever driven on the side of a gravel road, you know that is where all of the loose gravel ends up, making it harder and less safe to speed up. My car started to fishtail, but I have felt that before and I could always correct myself by slowing down a bit. Seeing the bright red cab of a semi coming at me, I knew

I had to stay over to the side and continue to slow down. I thought the semi would get over to his side more. I thought I was far enough over. I thought I was going slow enough. I thought wrong.

The semi ended up being farther towards the middle of the gravel road than I expected. Doing a last minute correction, I jerked my wheel towards the right side of the road to avoid hitting the semi head-on. Of course, this made me start to fishtail even more on the side of the road. I tried to correct myself once again by slowing down, but it was too late. I was heading for the left side ditch and there was nothing I could do to correct it anymore.


One. Imagine hearing a pop can being squashed. Now imagine that exact sound but it being 100 times louder. That’s what I heard rolling down the side of that ditch. “Oh shit,” I thought. My parents were going to kill me. Their insurance was going to go up and they would have to help me pay to fix my car. All I could think about at that moment was how disappointed they were going to be in me. I could picture my dad yelling and lecturing about how I should have known better than to have been going so fast. My mom would be worried, so worried, at the beginning. She would ask me a thousand questions. “Are you hurt?” “Why were you going so fast?” And so on. I knew I was going too fast.

Two. The crushing and smashing noise of my Honda Santa Fe was still unbearably loud. My friends would freak out once they heard. I started to replay all of the last conversations I had with my friends. They will look at me differently now; I know it.
How will they find out? Who’s going to find out by the end of the day? What if they don’t know I am okay? What if I wasn’t okay?

Three. The loud crashing noise had finally stopped. After three complete rolls, my car had its final resting place in the bottom of that ditch. I have never heard anything so intensely loud as the sound of my car rolling down that ditch in my life. All of the cracking and smashing stopped quickly, though. Then there was nothing but the sound of my radio playing. I still remember the song that was playing too – “Sweet and Low” by Augustana. As I tried to look around I noticed my glasses weren’t on my face anymore and everything was blurry.

Surprisingly I was calm for the first few minutes. I was just hanging there, upside down, trying to figure out what happened and what to do next. I kept replaying those thoughts about my parents and friends in my head, trying to predict their reactions and hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as I expected. This is when I started to notice how bad my left shoulder and knee were hurting. It was a sharp pain, like thousands of shots being stuck into you at once.

Then all of a sudden, the music shut off and something in the car was ticking in the back. For some reason, this triggered something in me. I was screaming as I hammered at the window. I’m not sure what I thought I was going to accomplish with this, but I knew I needed to get out as soon as possible.

That’s when I could see some big white car pull up. Two people in bright yellow vests got out and were running towards me. I’m not really sure why, maybe I thought they wouldn’t see me, but I screamed even louder when I saw them. They got to my door and tried to open it up but the door was half way dug into the ground. It took some time, but they eventually got the door open a little after enough pulling and yanking. One of the men squeezed in the door and asked what my name was and how old I was. I replied and asked him to please get me out of the car. He smiled at me and told me not to worry, that they were going to help. It was weird, but I almost felt safe when he said that. He made it seem like the crash wasn’t that bad. He made me feel like I was going to be all right.

I noticed that my left shoulder was really starting to hurt now, to the point where I was getting tears in my eyes. My seatbelt was the only thing holding me up, so all of the pressure of my weight was being put on my shoulder. I asked him if he could take my seatbelt off because my shoulder was hurting. He reached across me to try to undo my seatbelt, but it wouldn’t come out. He then told the other guy to go get something to cut my seatbelt off with.

That’s when I heard a familiar voice yelling my name. It was my dad. He had been coming back from Kindred and came upon my car upside down in the ditch. I have never seen my dad so worried in my life. He came running up and was freaking out, yelling for me and pushing right past the two men. I surprisingly had to calm him down before we could do anything. Imagine that. The person who is dangling from the inside of an upside-down car having to calm down a person outside of the car. After he was starting to  relax a little bit, I tried one more time to unbuckle before they were going to cut my seatbelt, and good thing I did because it worked. I landed right in a pile of cracked glass but I was out. I squeezed through the door and stood up. That’s when I noticed the sharp pain shoot up my leg again. I looked down and my knee was bleeding, along with my hands.

My dad hugged me for what seemed like hours. He hugged me longer than we ever have. In my family, we don’t really show our emotions a lot. It is just known that we love and care for one another. For me to see my dad tearing up and hugging me, it was a surreal thing that I will surely remember for the rest of my life.

I waited in my dad’s pickup for the sheriff to show up and assess what had happened. When the sheriff got there he looked and took pictures of my car and then came to ask me questions. Once he was done he told me I was lucky. He said that if I went into the ditch a few seconds before that I would have hit the approach and would have most likely been dead instantly. Only a few seconds saved me from dying rather than living. That’s a scary thought to think about. I replayed all of those thoughts I had while I was rolling down the ditch. It only took a few seconds, close to three, to happen in reality, but it seemed like forever in my head. I was beyond thankful that my car was the only thing that wasn’t making it out of that ditch that day.

When I got home after what seemed like hours and hours, I looked at my phone for the first time since the crash. There had to have been at least 10 texts and numerous missed phone calls. I burst out crying when I saw this. I kept thinking about how worried everyone must have been. I had left so many things unsaid to people. Nobody knew how much I truly did appreciate them. Thinking back to all of those emotions and feelings running through my mind that day, I realize now that I need to take advantage of the moments I have with people. I made a promise to myself that day that I would let people know how much they mean to me because you never know how long you will have on this earth.