Outside there’s a blizzard. We’re on the highway but we’re not moving. There are cars all around us. Five hours, each churns by minute after minute. Nothing to do but stay in the car and watch the snow blow by and try to fall asleep.
We were one of probably 200 families stuck there that night. Even though the weather had gotten bad, we still would have made it to Georgia that night. The wreck stopped us and the snow piled up on the road making driving conditions so terrible that we couldn’t go on.
At first it was cool. I love weather like that, especially when you are watching it from inside. After being there two hours, it turned awful. It got dark outside, and time started to go slower. We had found out that a FedEx truck had flipped over and a semi had jack-knifed into it. No one seemed to care much about the wreck, just that we were stuck and would be there for a while.
I remember thinking I wanted to try and help in any way I could. I would do anything to get out of there. It was my whole family sitting there in the car, my dad driving, my mom in the passenger’s seat, me on the floor of the car, and my sister sitting behind me; bugging me. We were driving to Georgia, where my grandparents live, for Christmas. The weather channel said it would be clear for us, and it was, until we entered Kentucky. All of the sudden it seemed we were driving through the arctic.
We were driving through Kentucky when the traffic started going slow and then completely stopped. Everyone was puzzled; all the adults were getting out of their cars. My dad was trying to figure out what was happening. Bunches of people were gathered around a shipping truck, along with my dad. He came back and told us that on the CB radio they were saying that there had been a wreck about a mile or two ahead. Time went by and we got more details.
The police said it would probably be an hour or two. After that had passed they said another hour or two. About three hours later we started moving.
W e probably moved about a couple of yards and then we stopped again. That happened a couple of times so when the car started moving it seemed unbelievable that the five hour wait was over. Once we actually started really moving it wasn’t that spectacular. For one thing we were only going about five miles an hour and for another thing we had no place to go.
After we got off the highway my mom took us to a couple of different hotels. All of them said their rooms were taken, even their lobbies were full. Apparently people thought ahead and called local hotels and got reservations while we were stuck on the highway. We drove on; the only place left was a Motel Eight. At first they refused to let us stay. They informed us that the local high school was going to open their gym for people to sleep. We would have gone there, but our car had gotten snowed in at the motel parking lot. We sat and watched the news for awhile in the lobby. Then we started getting hungry so my mom walked over to a Wendy’s where they had closed claiming they did not have enough food. The place was completely full as everyone that had been stuck on the highway was there at the Wendy’s trying to get dinner. The hotel employees put out food for us and anyone that had extra food put out what they could. That night we ate crackers, carrots and turkey sandwiches for dinner, but I hate turkey so I just had crackers and carrots.
There were around twenty-five other people in the lobby. I got to know several of them. A kind man named George had brought a cat with him. My sister and I were able to sort of take care of the cat so he could get some food and could get situated. Also a benign couple had brought their three cats with them, and their baby. They were moving to Nashville, Tennessee. There were many others, but I remember them the most since they had cats. That night I fell asleep to the quiet buzz of my sister’s headset on a cold hard wood floor in the corner of the lobby in the Motel Eight.
The next day when we woke up every one was working together. Again everyone put out all the food they had to make up breakfast. The people that had rooms were opening them up for people to take showers or brush their teeth. Then when it came time for my family to leave we exchanged phone numbers with some people that were staying at the motel longer. When we got a while out we called them and informed them that conditions started to lighten up another fifty miles down the highway and that we had seen some wrecks along the side of the road. We kept in touch with George until we were safely home in Georgia, and he was safely home in Florida.
I know being stuck in traffic for five hours is no comparison, but it helped me to understand what people that live through hurricanes, tornadoes, and weather tragedies might feel. Now for example, the people in Louisiana whose homes are flooded and miserable, I think I know how they feel on some level. A majority of the time I was afraid we would never get out of there or that we were going to spend Christmas in a Motel Eight. All I was thinking was that I wish I were home in my bed, not here on this floor. I don’t think the experience changed me much, but it sure put some things into perspective. Something I did get out of it was the caring for the other people that had been stuck also. Everyone seemed to do whatever they could to help one another in anyway possible. It was amazing that in such frustration everyone stuck together; even perfect strangers were willing to lend a helping hand. I know I thought the whole experience was awful. My favorite motto is “ what does not kill you will make you stronger,” and in this case it’s true.