I'm gonna talk about one specific thing that happened to me on Thanksgiving this year that undoubtedly has changed my life forever.
I'm a member of my University's marching band, and, every other year, we take a trip over to the eastern side of the state to play at a football game between my school and our school's rivals. The trip, in my director's words, is a "hardship" – making a 6 hour roadtrip on Thanksgiving day instead of visiting with your family and eating turkey is never easy. Add in the fact that we have to split a hotel room bed, and, well, let's just say things aren't always peachy.
This year was exponentially worse, however. On our way to the eastern side of the state, my bus came to a stop at the side of the road (we took a caravan of 7 buses over; it's a big band). I thought this was a little weird at first as we had just stopped at a rest stop about a half hour beforehand, so I took off my headphones to see what was going on. A few minutes passed, and then one of the bus drivers walked onto our bus, clearly a bit panicked, asking that anyone who was "able bodied and strong" to get off the bus and help. I put my jacket on and walked outside – I definitely wasn't prepared to see what I saw that night.
One of the buses in our caravan had flipped completely over onto its side, with instruments and bodies scattered everywhere. As I walked outside, there were people in various states of shock and injury; some were sobbing but relatively uninjured, some were completely silent, bloody, and in shock, some were bleeding heavily on the ground, and others were laying completely motionless on the side of the road. It was one of the most traumatic things I've ever experienced – at least initially, when I walked out there, I wasn't sure if people laying on the side of the road were alive or dead. That's a scary enough thought as is, but considering the fact that I'm friends with many of the people on the flipped bus, well, that just made it even scarier.
Those who were injured were airlifted or taken via ambulance to local hospitals. The rest of us who were uninjured took shelter at an elementary school nearby. I don't think it was the accident itself that changed me, but what happened afterwards that has given me an entirely new perspective on life.
Despite all the tragedy that had occurred in the past few hours for myself and the rest of my bandmates, we rallied and made the absolute best of the situation that we could. Even though 56 of us were injured in a bus crash just a few hours earlier, those who were healthy refused to hang their heads. While we were all worried about our fellow bandmates, some of us played basketball with each other, trying to pass the time. Others read books to their sections, trying to provide a moment of calm among a bad situation. Even the locals of the town we were staying in brought us Thanksgiving leftovers, food, blankets, and a dog to make sure that we were taken care of during our darkest hour. Over the course of the three hours we were there, we probably had well over 100 people stop in to bring us food and to make sure we were okay. It goes without saying that I think that'll be the greatest showcase of the human spirit I'll ever experience until the day I die.
We decided to not continue on with our trip in respect to those who were injured, and instead chose to stay in a local town nearby until the roads cleared and we could go home. Rather than attend the game in person, we'd watch it on TV and cheer from afar. The number of warm wishes we got during this time was nothing short of incredible, either. Other marching bands from across the country reached out to us with warm wishes and videos hoping for a speedy recovery. Our football team discussed before the game about playing for us (the marching band). Even our rival school's marching band played our school's fight song during pregame in order to honor us. They also kept our seats open and reserved for us, as a signal that, while we weren't able to be there, our presence was still felt. Even after the game, the coach of the football team said that they played this game for us, and presented us with a game ball.
As for the band itself, well, we didn't let our spirits get dampened one bit, and that was probably the most amazing thing to me. Despite all that had just happened, and the fact that, rather than at the game, in the stands, amongst the fans, we were instead in the lobby of a Holiday Inn cheering on our football team, our spirits never wavered. Though we couldn't play our instruments, we "sang" our music, danced through our choreography, cheered our team on, and went through our typical gameday traditions just like any other day. In our darkest moment, we continued to shine and be resilient, showing that, yes, you may be able to break our bus, but our spirit will always remain unbroken. I was absolutely overjoyed and incredibly proud of all of my friends in band for showing the spirit and resilience that they did. I'll never forget it.
Before this entire event, I never really thought about how much I have to be thankful for. It's a really weird feeling – almost indescribable – when you see a bunch of your friends go through a traumatic experience like this. Even though none of them were permanently injured (people are still recovering, but everyone is expected to make a full recovery), it's really weird to think that that could have very easily been me in their same position. It's also very weird to think about that it could have been much, much worse than it ended up being (how many times do you hear about bus crashes where multiple fatalities are involved?).
I have a newfound appreciation for the human spirit. I have a newfound appreciation for small towns. I have a newfound appreciation for my friends (you guys included). I have a newfound appreciation for easy driving conditions. I have a newfound appreciation for the band I'm in. And I have a newfound appreciation for life in general. Life can be over so fast; it's important to live it as best as you can until then. You never know when a day could be your last.
This is going in the topiclessness thread because I really didn't know where else to put it. I just wanted to put some thoughts out there that have been on my mind recently.
I've thrown some articles below. Take a look and thanks for reading this!