A Slippery Slope

Counselor Reflects of Effects of Accident

On Dec. 8, 2017, a soft layer of snow coated the ground. Children laughed and screamed as they played in the icy wonderland, many of them experiencing snow for the first time. However, snow wasn’t the only thing that arrived that night. Icy roads and walkways were also a harsh effect of the cold weather – one that left road conditions dangerous for those trying to get to work or school. Lead counselor Patti Morningstar was one of those affected by the unsafe  roads.

“That morning it was really beautiful,” Morningstar said.  “There were still a lot of fields out in the area, the sun was coming up on the snow, there were deer running around and I just remember thinking how beautiful it was.”

However, the peace was interrupted by a pickup truck that sped by Morningstar’s car as she began to merge on the freeway, causing her car to spin and hit a patch of ice.

“As I hit ice, the car spun, it hit one of the concrete embankments, went up in the air, came down upside down, and rolled three times,” Morningstar said. “And then when I stopped, I was across both lanes of traffic.”

Morningstar was then approached by two bystanders who attempted to help her and called the police.

“There were two men who stopped and I just remember being so terrified that they were going to be hit as they were trying to help me,” Morningstar said. “I kept trying to get them to get back in their cars.”

After the police arrived, the freeway was shut down and Morningstar was rushed to the hospital, where she found out she had a serious back injury.

“I have a very strong faith, and when the accident started happening I just called out to God,” Morningstar said. “I had no cuts, even though there was glass everywhere. I have a compression fracture of my spine, and I’m still in physical therapy for it.”

These aftershock of a crash are not only physical and can also affect the mental state.

“I drive differently now,” Morningstar said. “I always go speed limit. I get very nervous on the places where the merging is. When it’s severe weather, I get anxious when I have to go home or I have to go to work. I think ‘Well, how am I going to get there, what are the driving conditions?’”

She also finds herself using the strategies she teaches in her work in her day-to-day life.

“I work with kids who have anxiety disorders,” Morningstar said. “I know kids think ‘well all the school counselors do is change kids’ schedules,’ but we also deal with a lot of mental health issues. So it’s ironic that the things I work with other students on, I’m using for myself.”

Morningstar’s advice for students is to be mindful of other drivers’ actions – you don’t know what they have experienced.

“The thing I’m most cognizant of now, is when you get on the freeway, you don’t know what that individual in that car has been through,” Morningstar said.  “When somebody is driving on my bumper, or when people zip up too close to me, it triggers all kinds of stress issues. You don’t know what each one of those individuals’ experiences have been. You’ve seen the cars with the student drivers sign on it – you automatically know to be careful, that person is new. Well, you don’t know whether a person lost somebody in a car accident. You don’t know if a person was in a bad accident, and just be cautious of that.”

Overall, Morningstar wants students to realize that often it is difficult to realize the  impact one’s actions can have on others.

“The thing that always amazes me is, that man [who hit my car] never stopped, and the police officers say, he probably didn’t even know the chain of reaction he set off,” Morningstar said. “So pay attention, be mindful.”


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