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'Mom, I Got Hit By a Car'

All I wanted that Friday morning was a cup of coffee. I wasn't even out of my pajamas yet and was pouring my first cup when my phone rang. It was 7:30 a.m.. My 12-year-old had just rolled down the driveway on his BMX bike a few minutes earlier, so when I saw his name on my caller ID, I assumed he had forgotten something for school.

But when I answered the phone, it was silent on the other end.

"Hello? Are you there?" I asked, getting a little worried.

"Mom, I got hit by a car," a shaky voice replied.

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"What? Where are you?" I was trying to keep my voice calm and hide my growing panic. My mind was racing toward all the terrible possibilities, but I reminded myself: He is well enough to call me.

"I got up and walked to the sidewalk," my son stammered, describing a busy intersection just a block away from our house. By this time my husband looked up from drinking his coffee—still in pajamas—and I motioned for him to get out the door. I stood dumbly in the doorway, even though I could have started walking while talking to him on my cell phone. My younger son was tucked away in his bed, and I decided to close the front door and leave well enough alone.

"Daddy's on his way. I'm coming too," I said, running down the sidewalk, not caring that I was wearing fuzzy leopard pajamas. I sprinted down our street and around the corner, seeing one of the other seventh-grade bicyclists waiting at the opposite corner, looking confused. While I waited for the red light, I could see a cluster of cars pulled over, but I couldn't see my son. Please, please God, let him be OK.

I found my husband already talking to our son, who was shifting his weight from side to side. Gingerly, I hugged him. Suddenly, I was afraid to break this skinny boy who was as tall as I am. He was standing, which was good. His knees were scraped, as if he had just taken an ordinary spill off his bike.

I surveyed the scene. A middle-aged man was talking to me, and someone was patting my shoulder. I turned around and saw a friend who has known my son since our boys were both infants. She was stopped in her car at the red light and witnessed everything. A few steps away stood another man, ring in nose and arms covered with tattoos. He was also wearing pajamas. From what the other guy was telling me, I understood that the nose-ring guy made a right turn while my son was crossing the street, crashing into the front tire of his bicycle and knocking him off his bike. Thank God it was not a split-second later.

I shuddered to imagine my son getting knocked off his bike, his head hitting the hard ground. My baby.

The next few minutes was a blur of sirens, flashing lights and people asking me questions. First the paramedics:

"How old is he? Is he allergic to any medications?"

Then the police:

"What's his full name? Was he wearing a helmet?"

I noticed that the authorities gravitated toward me first. Maybe it was the family resemblance, or perhaps because frazzled women in leopard pajamas don't usually stand at a busy corner during morning rush hour. As my son was loaded into the ambulance, I ran home to change and follow in my car. My husband stayed to finish the police report while a neighbor watched over our younger son.

At the emergency room, people kept stopping by our little corner.

"It could have been so much worse."

"Good thing you were wearing a helmet."

People offered water bottles, and the lady sitting next to a man with an oxygen tank looked too long with a kind smile. My phone is buzzing with texts from friends and the parents of my son's friends. While we waited for an orthopedic specialist to inspect the x-rays, my son pointed to a mark on his helmet. "Mom, was this here before?" The mark was wide and rough, suggesting that the helmet had been scraped along the pavement. I shuddered to imagine my son getting knocked off his bike, his head hitting the hard ground. My baby.

Nothing made sense. I tried to piece together what happened: My son almost all the way across the intersection, the Toyota coming around the corner.

The kind lady ventured across the hallway to say, "He reminds me of my grandson. I think it's the smile." She pulled out her wallet, proudly displaying a school portrait of an olive-skinned boy grinning for the camera. The doctor finally returns to give us clearance to leave, as a volunteer gives my 12-year-old a plush kangaroo wearing a T-shirt with the hospital logo.

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A month has passed since the accident. We've talked about safety and shopped for a new helmet. My son got back on his bike the next school day and pedaled away to meet his friends. If the day of the accident was one of the worst days of my life, watching him ride down the street the next Monday was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Image via Flickr/Richard Masoner

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