One glance. That’s all it took. Just one, meaningless little glance at the setting sun, and then my life changed. My eyes should’ve been on the road–should’ve been on the car in the next lane, should’ve seen the drunk driver before it was too late and hit the brakes. But no. My mind and my eyes were too busy enjoying the florescent red of the sun upon the river below, the Danube. Within those few brief seconds, I thought about how I’d describe to my folks all I’d seen that day: the walk through the Black Forest, the tour of Freiburg’s campus, and of course, the wonderful people of Germany. The moment ended when something slammed into the driver side. One moment I was gazing out through the passenger side’s window, the next I was flying towards it, only my seatbelt yanked me back into place. “What the-!?” was all I could get out before I saw the view in the windshield change from a setting sun to the oncoming sight of the bridge’s iron railings.
A painful flash of light filled my eyes as my head flew into the steering wheel, just as the car plowed through the side of the bridge. Within the course of a heartbeat, everything went into slow motion. I felt myself float up in my seat, taste the rising fear in the back of my throat, and stiffen as I saw the inky, wet darkness below grow larger and larger as the car raced towards it. Then God pressed play, and everything went back to real time. The car crashed into the water below and I was thrown forward again. Hard fabric punched my face as the airbag went off. The light of the sun winked out as both water and darkness engulfed the vehicle. The icy sting of water began to pour onto my knees from where I assumed the air vents were.
The cold touch of water brought me out of my daze and adrenaline kicked in. I remembered that the river’s current was rough and there were rocks that jetted from its bottom. I needed to get out, now. I undid my seatbelt and felt for door’s handle. A sudden jolt ran through the car hit the river’s bottom, and its current began to drag it away; my hand found the handle just as it did. I yanked it and pushed on the door, but to no avail. Damn it! The water pressure. I’d forgotten about that. Then I remembered the glass. Right! I need to break the glass! Before I could think of how, something slammed into the passenger side, throwing me towards the side again, just as the sound shattering glass and bending metal reached my ears. Within those briefs seconds I thought: The rocks! Then a wave of hard, cold, dark water crashed into my face.