It was a wonderful weekend camping with our friends at Lake Tahoe. The weather was perfect and of course the scenery was picture perfect. If you've never been to Lake Tahoe, it's one of the most beautiful places on earth. The water in the lake is chilly but the water is over 99% clear letting you see a white object 100 feet deep. It's truly amazing.
We spent the weekend hiking, boating, swimming, and telling stories around the campfire at night. There's nothing like getting away in the mountains with the fresh air, cooking by the campfire, and sleeping under the stars.
The weekend was a much needed break from our busy routines of working full time, commuting in heavy traffic and raising our children. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and we headed home on Sunday afternoon.
As I drove our brand-new Mazda minivan west on Interstate 80 down the mountain, my wife Ellen, my two year old daughter Alicia and my five year old nephew Kyle, all fell asleep. I was driving directly into the bright sun so my view was distorted at times. I wasn't sleepy but the hot, bright sun was very challenging.
The traffic was very heavy, as it usually is on Sunday afternoons in the summer. I remember driving 70 miles an hour at times then suddenly slowing to almost a complete stop many times. Between the bright sun and inconsistent traffic, I really needed to stay focused.
As we continued down the mountain, traffic thinned a bit and the flow of traffic was traveling around 70 miles an hour consistently. Finally I could relax a little bit and enjoy the ride.
It turns out, I relaxed a little too much. This stretch of Interstate 80 is very scenic with dramatic mountain peaks everywhere. There are very steep drop-offs and not many guardrails. As the road turned to the right, the sun was in my eyes and I didn't see the sharp turn.
Our minivan was traveling over 70 miles an hour on the shoulder as the road turned to the right. My wife woke up and yelled “What are you doing?” I tried to pull the car back on the road but we were about to hit a new section of guardrail head on. I quickly pulled to car back to the left to stay on the shoulder and avoid the head-on collision that would have killed us.
As my wife and I were about to say “Whew that was close” the shoulder of the road ended and the minivan flew off a 100′ cliff. The front of the van dropped suddenly and the back of the van flew over us. We were flying through the air with no control of the vehicle.
The back of the van hit the ground first then we started tumbling down the mountain on the side of the van. At this point everything was in super-slowmotion and very gentle. Our lives were flashing in our eyes and I kept thinking which tumble is going to kill us. There was no way we could survive this.
Finally the van came to a rest on it's side on the edge of another cliff. One more roll and we would have launched off a second cliff and down another few hundred feet. The windows were all smashed and the back of the van was crushed from the initial impact.
Somehow we all survived this incredible event with just a few scratches. I quickly got the kids out of the car and helped my wife out. People came running down the hill to help us, but they admitted they didn't expect to find us alive. The police officer said he's seen countless cars drive off the same cliff in his twenty years on the job!
The craziest thing was that my mother heard me yelling for her to help me at the exact time we launched over that cliff. She turned to my father and said “Did you just hear Teddy calling me? Something has happened and he needs my help”.
My mother and father were 3000 miles away from me in Philadelphia. Crazy isn't it?
This was a wakeup call for us. For some reason, our lives were spared and I knew I had a special purpose in life. My life didn't end that day because I still had work to accomplish. At the time I didn't know what that work was but today I know why I'm here. I'm here to help people live a better life. I'm here to remind people that a successful career is meaningless unless you have a complete life.
So what is your unfulfilled mission in life? Share your story in the Comments and I'll share your story in one of my upcoming newsletters.
P.S. This is a true story that really happened to me and my family. As you just experienced, stories are a powerful way to connect with your audience on a very deep level.
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