Acts of Fear: New Year, or Somersaulted

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When I was five years old, my mother, siblings, several relatives, and I survived a car accident. I do not know if it was in 1999 or 2000 or 2001, but I remember clearly that it was New Year and people were talking about “millennium.” We were passing through Ekwulobia, going to see my maternal grandmother.

Onlookers said that the driver in front of us stepped on his brake suddenly, we hit him from behind, and our car tumbled in the air and landed upside down. The word I remembered hearing afterwards: “somersaulted.”

What I remembered next was opening my eyes, shattered glasses, feeling very strange, not knowing where I was, two hands reaching in from the car window, pulling me out. I think I was one of the last to be saved, because I was carried into a compound and everyone else was there. Not a hair was missing on anyone of us.

We turned around, giving up on our journey. My mother chartered a Peugeot wagon and we headed back home, to my father’s village.

Weeks later, my two siblings and I stood before our school’s morning assembly as our principal shared our testimony. A sea of pink and purple uniforms. Eyes. “It somersaulted three times,” she said.

A gasp spread in the compound. Some shouts. I still hear them now.

They prayed for us. One or two teachers prayed into the microphone and later a pupil came up and did, too. I think they hugged us. Afterwards, everybody ate the rice my parents had sent to the school—two coolers per class. The food was saraka: thanksgiving. For the next few months in school, our teachers referenced it any time they could: “the children that their car somersaulted three times and nothing happened to them.”

My fear of travel might be connected to this.

When I remember this, I feel grounded. Even though, in my family, nobody has mentioned it since. Even I sometimes forget it happened. Maybe because my mother later died from a car accident in 2012. It is almost ten years now.

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