The first semester of college is done. I got a C+ in Writing and a B in American History. Not bad for a guy 18 years out of high school. The Writing class featured four essays, one of which is worth sharing. It's a very condensed version of me getting hit by an IED, called 'Another Hill".
My eyes were locked on the road ahead, and I almost felt a sense of boredom, having been on this road dozens of times before. I say almost boredom, because this road was in far western Iraq, and my truck was in the lead.
My truck was an armored vehicle, an upgrade from the standard Humvee, and I was in command of myself, a driver and a gunner. My truck and four others were ten miles in front of a 200 vehicle convoy, and our job was to find IED’s. It had been a long boring day, and my eyes were sore from staring so intently at every piece of trash and oil stain around. Seven hours of driving and nothing had happened, until we came to that hill.
I looked off the side of the road and saw a tire hanging from a fencepost. In Iraq, this was very suspicious, because the insurgents liked to use them to mark where their IED’s were hidden. My driver saw it just after me, and the truck started to slow. I toggled the radio switch with my finger to tell the other vehicles what I saw. As we came up to about even on the road with the tire, I was talking on the radio. “This is 33, I have a tire at my…” That was all the farther I got, when suddenly I saw, heard, and felt the explosion.
Time slowed, and thoughts raced through my head at lightning fast speed. It was like watching a slide show on fast forward. “GO GO GO!” I yelled to the driver, even though he was already accelerating. “33 is hit!” I yelled over the radio, even though the rest of the trucks would have had to be blind not to see the explosion. I had a bitter taste, like a mouthful of salt. I asked my men of they were hurt. I asked again, and again, unable to believe them when they said no. They must be in shock. I checked myself, like someone who is deathly afraid of spiders and has just seen one crawling on him. I moved my hands all over, sure that I would find blood or missing limbs. I asked my men again if they were hurt. I saw the bright flash of the explosion superimposed over everything that I looked at. I looked back at the road and told my driver to go faster. I tried to make sense of the chaos on the radio, as too many people tried to talk at once. My hands were now moving by themselves, searching my body for the blood that I knew must be there. Finally, one voice broke through clearly. “33 stop your truck so we can get the medic to you.”
As we slowed to a stop, I twisted in my seat and started checking my men like I had checked myself. Then I started to look around the truck, looking for the damage that must be there. Suddenly, and incredibly, it dawned on me that we were alive, and ok. The size of the explosion and the force of the blast had set my mind to fearing the worst. As I crawled out of the truck, my legs and arms were weak, like I had been lifting weights for three days straight. My squad leader came rushing up to me, asking if I was alright and not believing me either. As he checked me over, I looked back down the road in disbelief. I could see the tire, and the hole in the road where the IED had been. They were just over a football field away. I was sure we had driven miles since the blast. I had lived a lifetime in 60 seconds. I was alive, in every sense of the word.