While attending “ladies’ camp” in Espanola, New Mexico one summer, it was decided that we would all take a drive up a nearby mountain, have a picnic and enjoy the warm, summer day. An old school bus had been chartered to take us up but I somehow missed the bus that morning and ended up riding with a couple of other women in a pick-up truck driven by one of the hired hands at the camp.
We enjoyed our relaxing and uneventful 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 blasting persistently. We turned around 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!
When we realized our predicament of terror–we grabbed hands, clutching at each other and started praying and chanting out loud to God and guru. I remember briefly thinking–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.
We quickly gained speed as we lost all ability to slow down, and as we hit bumps and dips in the pavement were being violently jostled and bounced. Our 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. 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 bring us to safety.
The driver’s attempts finally paid off as we came to a tumbling halt, 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 landed on it sideways. I had to wear a neck brace for several weeks while it healed. One of the baby’s arms was broken but no one was seriously injured.
Upon returning home to Massachusetts I suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. I felt a real sense of loss of control while riding in vehicles that I perceived as going too fast, especially if we “bumped” at any point. I would become aware of my right foot pressing deeply into the floorboard, unconsciously trying to slow us. Riding on the subway could also induce panic as it sometimes felt we were blasting along at excessive, out-of-control speeds. I became one, big “white knuckle”. The fear has lessened over the years but can still rear its head at times, instantly returning me to that day on the mountain.