While attending “ladies camp” in Espanola, New Mexico one summer, it was decided that we would all take a drive up a nearby mountain and have a picnic and outdoor fresh air. An old school bus had been chartered to take us up. I somehow missed the bus that morning though and ended up riding with a couple of other women in an old truck driven by one of the hired hands.
We enjoyed our uneventful, but relaxing afternoon and when it was time to return, one of the women approached me and asked if I would mind taking her place on the bus so she could ride back down in the truck (I think she had a crush on the cute truck driver). No, I didn’t mind, so I boarded the bus and we began the hour-plus trip to camp on the tightly twisting, mountain road. I took a seat at the rear of the bus and shortly after we got started, a friend and I heard a car’s horn persistently “honking”. We turned to look out the back window and the people in the car behind us were frantically trying to get our attention. It was then we saw the smoke–and at that same moment we realized something was terribly wrong. The brakes had gone out!
We quickly gained speed as we lost all ability to slow ourselves, and as we hit bumps and dips in the pavement, we were being violently jostled out of our seats. The driver was actually thrown out of her seat twice (and managed to get back into it) as she bravely maneuvered the bus, repeatedly “scraping” the out-of-control vehicle along the face of the mountain in an attempt to slow us down. There were areas along one side of the road where cliffs fell steeply into ravines and she was trying to avoid us going over them. She had her one year old baby on the trip with us that day and I’m sure that that had something to do with her valiant efforts to safely stop us.
When we realized our predicament of terror–we grabbed hands, clutching at each other and started chanting out loud together. I remember thinking briefly–is this the way I’m going to die? In looking back, though, I’m amazed at the calmness that came over me at that moment.
But the driver’s attempts paid off as we finally came to a stop, the elderly bus heaving one last time as we flipped over, landed upside down and skidded off the side of the road.
Help arrived in minutes and several of us were driven in a police squad car to the nearest hospital to be checked out. I had suffered a bloody cut on my foot which required a tetanus shot and had sprained my neck as I came to rest on it sideways. I had to wear a neck brace for several weeks while it healed and one of the baby’s arms was broken. But no one was seriously injured!
But after I returned home to Massachusetts, and for many years after, I believe I suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. I felt a real sense of loss of control while riding in vehicles that may be going too fast, especially if we “bumped” at any point. My right foot would be pressing deeply into the floorboard vainly trying to slow us down. The Boston subway also brought fear as it sometimes felt like we were blasting along at out-of-control excessive speeds. A wave of panic would sometimes wash over me and I became one big “white knuckle”.
But as time has passed, the fear has dissipated.