Sometimes the unthinkable happens, and when it does, the repercussions can last a lifetime.
This piece is based on an AskReddit thread. Link on the last page.
1. It was an accident. I was 11 years old and had gotten into that tinkering phase kids go through and I was fiddling with my brakes, gears, etc. I went on a ride to a super steep hill that was really popular to test my adjustments.
As I was blasting down the hill the nut that secures the handle bars jostles loose and I lose all semblance of control. Next thing I remember, there was car coming towards me from the opposite direction and I was on the ground.
The car swerved to miss me and went straight into a tree killing the whole family; mom, dad and two kids.
Im all grown now and only recently felt safe going back there and to the hill that changed everything, part of my continuing therapy. The worst part about it is at the spot where they died there is a perfectly maintained cross and flowers bearing their names.
2. In Afghanistan I was in a really crappy town called Musa Qala that was infested with Taliban. My unit was in a firefight one day and I was leading my squad though an alleyway in-between mud huts when this Taliban fighter came around the corner and stopped.
He was about 10 feet away. He had his AK down by his waist but I had my weapon up on my shoulder. We both looked each other right in the eyes and I could see the fear on his face because he knew he was screwed. I shot him 5 times before he hit the ground. I saw his face in my dreams for months after that.
3. Growing up I loved climbing trees, so me and my friends would climb the tallest ones we could find. We decided to get together one Friday and head down to the river to do some climbing. We always took a backpack with lunch and snacks and water with us so we could hang out in our tree until dark.
It was my friend’s younger brother (11) who was carrying the backpack full of snacks, and I was carrying the backpack full of drinks. My friends younger brother was not as used to climbing trees as we were.
We were almost to the part of the tree where there was a spot for us to all be able to sit. I got there first and I hung my backpack up on a tree branch. I then told my friends little brother to pass me his backpack so I could hang it on the branch and make it easier for him to get to where I was. That was when it happened.
While he was passing me his backpack, his foot slipped off the branch and he didn’t have the upper arm strength to carry his own weight yet. He fell the whole way down the tree, landed in the river onto jagged rocks and was killed instantly. My friend and I were out of that tree faster than I even thought it was possible, and what we saw that day changed us forever.
I feel like if I never told him to pass me his backpack, we’d all be in a tree right now drinking a beer thinking back on all our adventures. But instead, my best childhood friend can no longer be in the same room as me. I have not heard from him or his family in over 10 years. Everyone tells me it wasn’t my fault and it could have happened to anyone, but that doesn’t erase the guilt I feel.
If anyone has a chance to read this and if you are going to get anything from my story, its that… anything can happen, anywhere at anytime.
4. On my first job out of college, I wrote the software used to track tigers so the government of India could find out where they were going and where poachers were poaching.
They found some poachers. Now there are fewer poachers and more tigers. It kind of doesn’t bother me.
5. I am a locomotive engineer (I drive trains).
Thirteen times in my 19 year career, someone ended up in front of my train who didn’t survive.
Suicide, poor judgment or no sense of situational awareness combined with a vehicle that takes a mile or more to stop = death about 50% of the time in my experience.
The nightmares of various incidents awaken me regularly. Pretty sure that I suffer PTSD, but, if I do something about it, I would lose my job (medically disqualified). I cannot let that happen at the moment because I need the money.
6. When I was around 6, I had a habit of sleeping on the stairs.
One day my sister, who was pregnant at that time, was going down the stairs. She ended up tripping over me and fell down, hard.
She miscarried. I never really got over it. It was (and is) still horrifying to me.
7. People say euthanasia is illegal in the U.S. but as a nurse, when I have palliative orders, they are to give strong narcotics every 5 minutes as needed. And you bet they’re given every 5 minutes. I have killed people that way. They were about to die, and I hope that I took their pain away in the process, but the drugs I have given take that pain away and contribute to their death at the same time.
That being said, I have never done this without an order from a physician or without family consent.
8. I got caught in a bad situation with some muggers in Pakistan. Here, they kill you after they take your things. They don’t leave folks alive that often. So I shot back.
9. I was driving on a small treacherous mountain road and my brakes went out. My friend talked me through it and I was able to stop my truck by easing into the mountain side at 55 mph. The truck flipped and rolled and landed on the edge of a cliff. My friends head was crushed during the roll. He tried to breathe but his neck was broken. He died as I was trying to talk to him.
10. When I was young I used to get bullied a lot. I was in the 9th grade and I had this one person, a senior, that would harass me constantly. I always tried to ignore it but I had to walk outside to get to one of my classes and he caught up to me. We were on the sidewalk, walking down a hill.
He pushed me and I fell down a little but caught myself. I got angry, angrier than I normally get. I pushed him back. Instead of falling to the side (or not falling at all) like I thought he would, he fell right off the sidewalk, onto the road and in front of a bus.
I called the police afterwards. I know he was bullying me… but I still have nightmares about what I did. Because of what witnesses said, I never suffered any consequences. But I almost wish I had.
11. I live in Colorado where the make my day law is in effect. He broke into my room and I reacted with a baseball bat. To this day I wish I had just run out of the room and gotten my dad.
12. I was 12 when it happened, and as much as it was a pure accident my life was better afterward.
My mum and I were living with her boyfriend at the time (this man was a drunk and an abuser) I came home one day from school to find him beating my mum down in the kitchen.
I had never even thought about standing up to this guy, he was above 6’3 and very broad but that day I came home from school made me summon all the courage I had to save my Mum. As I ran over to them I grabbed a fork off the table and stabbed him just below his shoulder on the back, it scared him so much that he had a heart attack and died on the floor.
13. I still remember it like it was yesterday. June 21st 2007. Baghdad. A squad member of mine was just killed and we were heading to the nearest Forward Operating Base (FOB) to regroup and recover.
I was the lead vehicle and noticed a white car driving in our lane, headed straight for us. The adrenaline from the previous explosion and firefight still coursing through me, I do everything I can to stop the vehicle, hand and arm signals, shouting, a damn whistle even. Nothing. So I give a warning shot, still no response.
The vehicle is still in our lane, coming right at us. So I open fire. I have to. What if that car is packed with explosives? The car veers off and hits a jersey barrier and stops.
There is barely enough room to squeak by the car without hitting it but as we are clearing it, I see a man with his wife and a baby in the back seat. All dead. The guy should have paid attention. But then again, maybe he was just doing what he was told to do. I will never know, but the image will haunt me until i die. Iraq sucks.
14. This happened when I was a truck driver – in training actually.
We were driving late at night on US 277 between Piedras Negras and Del Rio. It’s kind of the armpit of Texas – flat, straight, boring, right near the border. I was at the wheel, my driver mentor was in his bunk, but awake chatting to me. I saw headlights ahead, a long way off. Didn’t think anything of it. After awhile, they got close, and it looked like they went to turn left, only there wasn’t a road there.
Then they straightened out and drove right into us head on.
I had just enough time to see that it was a Tacoma, and the driver was male. All I could do was let go of the steering wheel and hit the brakes.
We were busted up pretty badly, but we cut that pickup in two. I had a broken wrist, my mentor had a bunch of broken ribs and a bruised liver. We got out to see the damage and when we walked to the rear I saw a work boot sitting on the double yellow line, with about 6 inches of leg sticking out. I still get an odd feeling in my stomach when I think about it.
Obviously, I didn’t plan to kill the guy. And there wasn’t much I could do without foreknowledge – semis aren’t exactly nimble. But it still takes a bit to tell yourself you couldn’t have done something else.
15. I was the driver in a car accident with my three best friends. The three of them died. I survived, somehow.
Just writing that makes me nauseous today.
And I say “today” because everyday is different. Some days I can talk about it or write about it and I’m okay and some days I just want to go back in bed and cry. And today apparently is one of those days.
16. When I was 14 my friends and I wanted to go to the beach so I suggested the one near my house. It was notorious for bad rips but I just figured that we would spot them and stay away. It was about 6:00 pm when we got there and the life guards had gone home.
We were in knee-deep water when we felt the pull of a rip. Me and one other friend made it out but the two that were less than five feet further out then me couldn’t. For the first five minutes we thought that they would be fine and that they could catch a wave in. After that we knew that there was a problem.
We started looking for someone and finally found an off-duty life guard 10 minutes after they were swept out. The life guard got a board and was able to save one of my friends. He couldn’t find the other. Her body was found later that night. If I hadn’t suggested that beach, if I had been quicker to find a life guard, if I had spotted the rip, my best friend would still be alive.
17. She was turning 13, I was 13 turning 14. It was her birthday and a group of us went to an old power plant to explore. I had asked her to ‘go out’ with me earlier that day. It was hilariously awkward at the time. Now it’s bittersweet.
Our friends stayed on the ground floor and she and I crawled up to the third floor to ‘make out’ but, we were just going to tell everyone we did. I was too advanced and she was a good girl, from the nice part of town.
After 10 minutes of edging along the wall she let go of my ahnd and tried to crawl over to a window to look out.
It’s taken me years to get past that moment and think clearly about what happened I heard a yelp and a crack that still makes me nauseous today. I can’t watch videos of a skater falling, or hostel or saw. I crawled down to her and all of our friends ran off to get help.
I remember being angry that no one was helping. I was trying to do CPR or something to save her life. When the cops found us, I was covered in blood. Ive been told it’s not my fault, but her parents still blame me.
18. I made the incredibly difficult decision to sign a DNR for my 3-year old son. He suffered from multiple physical and intellectual disabilities. He spent the majority of his life in and out of the paediatric inpatient units.
Eventually, I became so sad at that the thought of his suffering and continual downhill slide, that I made the decision to do no more. I took him home from the hospital and about 2 weeks later he went into respiratory distress and died. I held him for 16 hours as he struggled to breath and I remember begging the hospice nurse to keep giving him the morphine and Ativan to end it because my heart couldn’t take it anymore.
I know I didn’t “physically” kill him, but I still made the mental decision to do so. It hurts each and every day.
19. I killed two kids in Afghanistan. They almost killed me. They were maybe 12. Their Taliban uncle had pumped them full of drugs and sent them to attack us to get killed so the village would be against us. I still see their faces in my dreams and it was seven years ago.