CBS announcer Verne Lundquist, stationed in the TV tower at No. 16, made the call that day. That day was April 10, 2005. In case you are not a golf or sports fan and haven’t seen that shot by Tiger Woods on No. 16 on Sunday afternoon at The Masters on April 10, 2005 you can see it and read about it at the link above. The Masters is known as a Tradition Unlike Any Other and this is one of the most famous shots in that event. Since this year is the 10th anniversary of that shot it has been getting a lot of air time the past couple of weeks.
I didn’t see that shot when it happened…or when I expected. I do remember that day and night though.
This Tradition Has Been Part of My Life
The Masters has been one of my favorite annual traditions for many years. For me, it marks the official beginning of spring. I often watched it with my father growing up and in later years when he could no longer play so it brings back good memories of spending time with him. I forced my children to watch it as they were growing up if they watched anything on Masters Sunday. They probably didn’t like it very much at the time but I think they have all come to appreciate it, if for no other reason, they know what it means to me.
I remember that Sunday for a different reason…
On this particular Sunday evening Sharin was working 2nd shift in the blood bank at the hospital and I had gone to church with the kids. I had a deacons meeting after church so I had set the VCR, yes it was a VCR back then, to record the rest of the golf tournament and I planned to watch it when I got home.
After church, Sarah and Amy went to Dairy Queen, the traditional after church place to go eat and visit. Rachel and Thomas wanted to go too but I made them wait at the church for me. I wanted to get home to see how The Masters ended and I had to be at the airport for a 5:30 flight the next morning so I still needed to pack for that trip too. I was just about to sit down and watch the end of the Masters…
Then, the phone rang…
It was a little after 9:00 and I received one of those phone calls a parent never wants to receive. It was Amy, telling me she and her sister Sarah, had been in an accident. Amy was 14 and Sarah 17 at the time. Her voice was a little shaky because she was understandably shaken up and worried about her sister still trapped in the car on the side of a hill. She wanted me to get there as soon as I could. I am pretty sure I yelled at Rachel and Thomas, 10 and 9 at the time, to get to the car and to pray for their sisters and we hit the road.
A Stretch of Road Unlike Any Other
The section of Highway or Route 21 between Hillsboro, where we lived, and DeSoto, where we went to church, is a 2 lane stretch of road called “Blood Alley”, known as one of the most dangerous in Missouri. As we neared the accident site traffic was backed up as it was stopped in both directions due to the accident. I got as far as we could and parked the car and told Rachel and Thomas to stay in the car. I didn’t know what I would see when I got to the accident.
Church Family – Unlike Any Other
Our church family from First Baptist Church DeSoto was already in motion doing what a church family does – taking care of its family members when they are in need and we were in need. Sharin had called William, our Minister of Music, and he was on his way from DeSoto to pick up Thomas and Rachel and take care of them for us. Pastor Jeremy was on his way to Jefferson Memorial, where Sharin was working and waiting and where Amy would be going soon. After Amy was checked out he drove Sharin, Amy, Tyler and Gene, our Youth Pastor, to St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, the destination of Sarah’s Air Evac helicopter ride.
An Accident, Unfortunately, Like Many Others
Upon reaching the scene I first saw Amy, who was understandably shaken up, upset, and worried about Sarah who was still in the car. The car was sitting precariously on the side of the hill facing back toward DeSoto, where they were coming from. It was being supported by cables attached to the fire truck parked on the road to keep it from rolling further down the hill. The paramedics were working to get her out of the car.
I talked to Sarah briefly in the ambulance before she was taken up the road a short distance to a helipad for her flight to the hospital. She was worried she had done something wrong. I assured her she had done nothing wrong. There was nothing else she could have done. She told me and Sharin, who was on the phone with me at the time, she was sorry and she was going to be fine.
I talked to the officers and learned they were hit head on by a drunk driver who was in their lane as they came over a hill. We would learn later he was in the process of trying to pass 4 cars at once and, obviously, didn’t make it. There was nothing Sarah could have done as there is no shoulder on the road, just a hillside.
Unfortunately, this is an all too common occurrence in our society
After both ambulances left I made my way back to the car and talked to William and made sure he had Rachel and Thomas and began the drive to the hospital where Sarah was headed, about 45 minutes away. I’m sure I broke some speed limits to get there. I also had to call Ramon, my boss at the time, along the way and let him know I would not be able to fly out to California the next day for work as had been planned. I was blessed to work for someone who was very understanding and supportive. He told me to do whatever I needed to do to take care of my family and not worry about work.
I don’t remember much more about that drive except I was doing a lot of praying.
At the Hospital
When I arrived at the emergency room or shortly thereafter I was greeted by several of Sarah’s friends and two former youth pastors, Jimmy and Jeremy. The church was there. This was just a small indication of the impact both Sarah and Amy had made, up to that point in their lives, on those around them.
When Pastor Jeremy arrived I remember him telling Sarah that God was watching over her and the reason she was still here is He still had big plans for her life. I believe that was true then and is still true today. They stayed with us praying and waiting most of the night while Sarah was in the first of many surgeries. I don’t know what we would have done without their support.
The Church – His Hands and Feet
In the following days and weeks we had meals prepared and delivered and prayers prayed and delivered for all of us as we walked through this ordeal. Russ and Chris built a wheelchair ramp for our house so we would be able to roll Sarah in when we got her home. To say we were blessed and cared for by our church family is an understatement.
I realize this happens in churches across the country every day. Maybe some of you reading this don’t. Some think of a big building with a steeple as the church. That is a false belief.
Until you are on the receiving end of this kind of love you never really know what it means. It is overwhelming and humbling. We will be forever grateful for how our church wrapped its arms around us.
We also had Sharin’s mother, Rennie, with us for a few weeks after the accident. Ronnie, Sharin’s brother, made the 12 hour trip to bring her up. She helped with everything around the house as I was going back and forth to the hospital. Sharin only left the hospital twice during the two weeks Sarah was there. She can be strong-willed at times. That might be where our children get that trait from.
Meanwhile…back to The Masters
I am not sure when I saw that shot on No. 16 at the 2005 Masters and the remaining holes and playoff won by Tiger Woods but I am sure I did at some point. The next few weeks were quite busy.
I can tell you whenever I do see that shot replayed I am reminded of something that has nothing to do with golf or the Masters. Those memories do help remind me of what is important. I wish I could say they made me a better person but I am still working on that. I am a work in progress.
I can also tell you we all (except for Sharin) made it to The Masters for the first time in 2007 and Sharin did finally make it this year and got to experience it with Amy.
The Masters is called a Tradition Unlike Any Other. At the same time it IS just a golf tournament. It ranks far below Serving a God Unlike Any Other and being part of two Families Unlike Any Other. I expect I will continue my annual tradition, probably like millions of others, of watching a golf tournament in Augusta in April called The Masters. However, when they do replay that shot, and they will, my thoughts will go elsewhere. Now you know where.
I thank God for my many blessings every day. I hope by sharing this experience and some of the blessings in my life it might remind you of some of yours and you will count yours every day too…
Until next time…
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P.S. If you want to know more about the accident and recovery from Sarah’s perspective you can read more at the links below on her blog. She wrote about it as only she can do in a series of blog posts last year that are very well done in my opinion.