Twenty-eight years ago today, my buddy Chris and I were hit head-on at 50 mph in a car crash that crushed Chris' wrist and sent me through the steering wheel and forever ruined Chris' golf game and broke bones off my spine.
It caused similar damage to the two people in the car that hit us.
Also -- and this also haunts me -- my last words on earth were nearly a line from Wham's "Careless Whisper." I'm never gonna dance again. Guilty feet have got no rhythm.
I was just out of college and had moved to Cleveland to live in Chris' basement and work in a small factory. It was just Chris and me and an old engineer guy who designed things like gas-powered off-road wheelchairs. We spent our days driving prototypes through woods and ditches.
That day, the engineer sent us to pick up a screw at a machine shop. We drove to the machine shop and headed back. Chris held that screw in his hand.
Chris and I were both at an age — early 20s — when two men can still sing together in a car, especially if a song happens to come on the radio that's cheesy enough so it seems like you might be singing it as a joke. Like "Careless Whisper."
That's what we were singing when that 18-year-old girl in the facing lane pulled out to pass an 18-wheeler and headed straight for us. I hit the brakes. I tried to swing the steering wheel to give us the most glancing blow without sending us into the telephone poles on the right. As I was making those crucial calculations and split-second life-and-death decisions, Chris told me later, I kept singing along to that Wham song. Just louder.
I'M NEVER GONNA DANCE AGAIN! GUILTY FEET HAVE GOT NO RHYTHM!
My truck's driver's side glanced off their car's driver's side and my back hit the ceiling of the truck before my shoulder went through the steering wheel and my head left a head-sized crack in the windshield.
Chris never let go of the screw, even as his hand smashed through the dashboard. After that, he couldn't have gotten that screw out of his hand if he tried.
Today, Chris lives in Vegas and I live in Minnesota. We rarely see each other, but we both realize how close we came to not living anywhere. Every year, on the anniversary, we leave messages on each other's phone. But it's not those Wham lyrics. It's what Chris said right after the crash, in that moment you realize how close you came to death.
"We could've been killed, kid," is the message. "We could've been killed."
Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.