Surviving a head on collision with a drunk driver, while on patrol with Ellijay police.

by David Bagley
(Chatsworth, Georgia)

ON DECEMBER 19, 2007 AT APPROXIMATELY 11:20 PM, WHILE ON A TOUR OF DUTY WITH ELLIJAY POLICE, ELLIJAY GEORGIA. I WAS HIT HEAD ON BY AN IMPAIRED DRIVER.
I HAD JUST LEFT THE GILMER COUNTY DETENTION CENTER IN REFERENCE TO PICKING UP A TEMPORARY PROTECTIVE ORDER FOR ANOTHER OFFICER, WORKING AN ACTIVE CASE.
I WAS TRAVELING WEST BOUND ON HIGHWAY 52, APPROXIMATELY TWO MILES FROM THE GILMER COUNTY DETENTION CENTER. I HAD JUST EXITED A BRIDGE ON A CURVE, NEAR OWLTOWN ROAD, WHEN I OBSERVED TWO HEADLIGHTS IN MY LANE. ALL I REMEMBER IS TURNING MY STEERING WHEEL LEFT.
I DO NOT KNOW HOW LONG I WAS UNCONSCIOUS. THERE IS A TIME FRAME I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION OF EVENTS.I DO NOT REMEMBER LEAVING THE GILMER COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, BUT I DO REMEMBER THE TWO HEADLIGHTS, AND JUST A SENSATION OF A COLLISION, NO PAIN, IT IS LIKE I WAS TEMPORARILY ABSENT FROM MYSELF. MAYBE IT IS THE BODY’S WAY OF PROTECTING SANITY, AND FEAR.
IT IS APPARENT AFTER A REVIEW OF 911 TAPES, I REALIZE THE IMMINENT DANGER I WAS STILL IN, LOW VISIBILITY, FOG, DARKNESS, AND THE POSITION, AND FINAL RESTING PLACE OF THE ACCIDENT SCENE. BY SOME MIRACLE I WAS PROTECTED FROM A SECOND COLLISION.
FROM THE CALLS PLACED TO 911 I HAVE LISTENED TO, I CAN HEAR THE PANIC, FEAR, AND WHAT I CALL FREEZE FRAME SHOCK IN THE CALLER’S VOICE. IF PICTURES DO SPEAK A THOUSAND WORDS, IT WAS A THOUSAND WORDS TOO MANY.
AS I REGAINED CONSCIOUSNESS, I REMEMBER SOMEONE YELLING MY NAME,” BAGLEY! BAGLEY! BAGLEY“!
FOR A MOMENT IN TIME I WAS TRAPPED IN A NIGHTMARE, WITH NO ESCAPE. I COULD NOT GET MY BODY TO MOVE. IT WAS LIKE I WAS PARALYZED. I HEARD NOISE’S OUTSIDE MY PATROL CAR, AND AGAIN I HEARD SOMEONE YELLING,” BAGLEY! BAGLEY! BAGLEY“!
TIME SEEMED TO STAND STILL FOR ME. THE NEXT THING I REMEMBER WAS SEEING FLASHING RED AND BLUE LIGHTS. EMERGENCY PERSONNEL AROUND ME. PARAMEDICS, EMT’S, LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND FIREMEN, THEY WERE TRYING TO FREE ME FROM ENTRAPMENT IN MY PATROL CAR.
OVER THE LOUD NOISES AROUND ME, I HEARD SOMEONE MENTION THE STATUS OF THE OTHER DRIVER, THAT THEY WERE 10-109D. OF ALL THE NOISES THAT SURROUNDED ME THAT NIGHT, THOSE WORDS 10-109D WERE THE LOUDEST WORDS I HAVE EVER HEARD. I KNEW THAT MEANT SOMEONE WAS DEAD. I REMEMBER ASKING THE PARAMEDIC IF THE DRIVER WAS DEAD. HE HESITATED, AND SAID YES.
THE MOST TERRIFYING FEAR CAME OVER ME. ALL I COULD DO WAS CRY. I WAS SCARED, BECAUSE I COULD NOT REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED. HORRIFYING THOUGHTS STARTED TO PLAGUE MY MIND. IS THIS MY FAULT, COULD I HAVE DONE SOMETHING TO PREVENT THIS. EVERY FEAR MY MIND COULD CONCEIVE WAS HAPPENING TO ME.
EVEN WITH CRITICAL INJURIES, I DIDN’T FEEL MUCH PAIN. MY PAIN WAS THE HAUNTING THOUGHTS THAT SOMEONE HAD LOST THEIR LIFE.
THREE DAYS AFTER MY ACCIDENT, AND STILL STRUGGLING WITH WHAT HAPPENED, MY CHIEF, AND SERGEANT CAME TO VISIT. I TREMBLED IN FEAR BECAUSE I THOUGHT THEY WERE THERE TO ARREST ME, BECAUSE I JUST COULD NOT REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED. I WAS STILL PONDERING IF THIS WAS MY FAULT. I RECALL ASKING IF I AM UNDER ARREST. THE CHIEF HANDED ME A COPY OF THE ACCIDENT REPORT.
THE GEORGIA STATE PATROL COMPLETED THEIR INVESTIGATION. THE CHIEF SAID HE WANTED TO BRING THE ACCIDENT REPORT TO ME TO GIVE ME PEACE OF MIND. IT CONCLUDED, AND READ, THAT I WASN’T AT FAULT. UP UNTIL THE REPORT, EVERYONE ASSURED ME IT WASN’T MY FAULT. I GUESS I JUST NEEDED TO READ IT FOR MYSELF.
FINALLY I COULD START THE HEALING PROCESS.
AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM THE HOSPITAL, I LOOKED OVER THE NEWS PAPER THAT HAD BEEN SAVED. AND READ THE OBITUARY. THERE I SAW THE DRIVER’S NAME, AND A PICTURE. ONCE AGAIN I BROKE DOWN, STARTED TO SHAKE, AND CRY.
MY WIFE STOOD BESIDE ME SILENT WHILE I WENT THROUGH A MOMENTARY BREAKDOWN.
DURING THE PROCESS OF MY HEALING, I CONTACTED THE MOTHER SEVERAL TIMES; IT WAS SOMETHING I NEEDED TO DO. I HAVE ALSO VISITED THE GRAVE SITE MANY TIMES SINCE THEN, IN RESPECT OF THE LIFE LOST.
THE BADGE I WAS WEARING THAT NIGHT ON PATROL,” UNTIL THIS LETTER, NO ONE HAS KNOWN THIS, EXCEPT MY WIFE.” I PLACED IT IN A SMALL HOLE AT THE GRAVE SIGHT.
IT IS MY WAY OF SAYING GOODBYE, AND I “FORGIVE“.
NOW, I SURVIVE ON. I MIGHT WORK FOR ANOTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY. BUT MY MISSION CONTINUES, SAVE A LIFE, THE LIFE YOU SAVE MIGHT BE YOUR VERY OWN.
I HOPE I NEVER HAVE TO TELL A FAMILY THEIR LOVED ONE HAS DIED BECAUSE OF AN IMPAIRED DRIVER, OR FROM BEING IMPAIRED.
THERE ARE TOO MANY VICTIMS, WHO LAY IN ETERNAL REST, IN GARDENS OF STONE.
SOMETIMES AT NIGHT I REVISIT THAT MOMENT IN A NIGHTMARE, AND WONDER WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE THAT DECEMBER NIGHT, THAT A LIFE WAS LOST, AND I SURVIVED, THIS IS MY TESTIMONY, THIS IS MY JOURNEY.

DAVID D. BAGLEY
“SO OTHERS MAY LIVE”
 

Part#2, The Healing..
FIVE AND A HALF YEARS LATER; WOW! IT JUST SEEMS LIKE A DREAM AGO. THERE’S NOT A DAY THAT GOES BY I DO NOT THINK OF MY ACCIDENT. IT HAS BEEN A LIFE CHANGING EVENT. SOME DAYS I PRAISE GOD I AM ALIVE. AND SOMETIMES I FEEL GUILTY OF BEING THE LONE SURVIVOR.
I OFTEN REFLECT ON THE FAMILY WHO LOST THEIR LOVED ONE FROM DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE. HOW MANY TEARS WERE SHED, HOW MANY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS WERE THERE. IN SOME WAYS I IMAGINE THE FAMILY SUFFERED MORE THAN I; OF THE LOSS OF A SON, A BROTHER, THAN I DID FROM MY INJURIES.
I HAD LEARNED WEEKS LATER AFTER COMING HOME, WHERE THE DRIVER WAS BURIED. I FELT AN OBLIGATION TO MAKE CONTACT WITH THE FAMILY. I LOCATED THE PASTOR OF THE CHURCH, WHERE THE DRIVER WAS BURIED. I TOLD THE PASTOR WHO I WAS, AND EXPLAINED MY SITUATION. THAT I WAS HAVING A DIFFICULT TIME DEALING WITH THE LIFE LOST. I HAD REQUESTED IF THE PASTOR COULD PUT ME IN TOUCH WITH THE FAMILY, I GAVE HIM MY PHONE NUMBER.
A SHORT TIME LATER I RECEIVED A CALL. I DO NOT KNOW THE IDENTITY OF WHO I WAS TALKING TO. I ASSUMED IT WAS A CLOSE FAMILY MEMBER. I TOLD HER OF MY GRIEF, AND THAT I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO THE MOTHER. SHE WAS VERY UNDERSTANDING. WITHIN JUST A FEW MINUTES THE MOTHER CALLED. I IDENTIFIED MYSELF TO HER. I TOLD HER I WANTED TO SEE HOW SHE WAS DOING, I COULD SENSE THE STRESS AND PAIN IN HER VOICE. SHE BEGAN TO CRY. I NEVER THOUGHT I COULD BE WOUNDED WITH SOME MANY TEAR DROPS. SHE PROBABLY NEVER EXPECTED TO TALK WITH ME. NOT ONLY AS A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, BUT AS A CONCERNED HUMAN BEING, OFFERING A HELPING HAND.
DAYS LATER, WHILE VISITING THE GRAVE SITE I NOTICED THAT HIS FATHER HAD PASSED SEVERAL YEARS EARLIER. FATHER AND SON WAS ONCE AGAIN TOGETHER. SEVERAL MONTHS LATER I SPOKE WITH THE MOTHER. WE TALKED ABOUT HER SON, NOT KNOWING, THIS WOULD BE THE LAST TIME WE WOULD EVER TALK AGAIN.
DURING MY LAST VISIT ON THE ANNIVERSARY DATE OF THE ACCIDENT, IN SHOCK, I SAW THE MOTHERS NAME ON THE HEADSTONE. SHE HAD PASSED EARLIER THAT YEAR. I WAS FROZEN; I COULDN'T EVEN COME UP WITH WORDS FOR A PRAYER. I JUST KNELT DOWN IN SILENCE; AND WONDERED IF THE MOTHER INSIDE, EVER HEALED, OR IF SHE PASSED AWAY WITH A BROKEN HEART.
TILL THIS DAY I HAVE NOT FOUND AWAY TO ESCAPE MY HAUNTING MEMORIES. MY NIGHTMARES KEEP CHASING ME DOWN. THEY FIND ME WHERE EVER I HIDE.
I DO FIND SOME COMFORT, KNOWING THAT THE FATHER, SON, AND MOTHER, NOW REST IN ETERNAL PEACE, AS A FAMILY, SIDE BY SIDE.
TO ME, THE SON LIVES ON IN MY PERSONNAL TESTIMONY. I MAY NEVER BE ABLE TO SURRENDER MY MEMORIES, BUT I CAN DEFINETLY TAKE A NEGATIVE, AND TURN IT INTO A POSITIVE. HE LIVES ON IN MY CALL TO DUTY, OUR MISSION, TOGETHER WE WILL SAVE LIVES. THIS IS ONE OF MY MOST VALUED TOOLS GOD HAS GIVEN ME, I CAN OFFER IN THE LINE OF DUTY...REST IN PEACE M.J.

DAVID BAGLEY
"SO OTHERS MAY LIVE"


E-MAIL davidbagley@policeone.com

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