I totaled my car on the way to a wedding – and still made it there in time


I was on my way from one wedding to another; from the wedding at KINS in West Rogers Park of Avi Gutstein to Tamar Cohn, the daughter of our COO, Mrs. Mary Cohn, to the wedding at the Westin O’Hare of Laura Feiger, a JET student to Zev Feiger of Skokie.


Tamar and Avi

I had given myself enough time to make it in time for the chuppah because I had been given the honor of saying one of the sheva brachos (seven blessings) under the chupah.

Snow had been falling most of the day. Waze suggested I stay on Devon all the way to River Road rather than take the highway. By now the snow was falling heavily, covering any traces of any snow truck plowing. About a mile away from the Westin, shortly after crossing an intersection, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the car to my left drifting into my lane. I instinctively turned my wheel slightly to the right. That was enough to take me out of the groove I was in and cause my Hyundai to lose control. I tried to correct the sliding of the car towards the sidewalk but the road was too slippery. I saw the car heading towards a tree and hit the brakes to lessen the impact.


I struck the tree on the right side of the car. The airbag deployed and the car came to a stop perpendicular to the road. In quick succession, the following thoughts raced through my mind:

Except for the impact of the airbag, I was not in any pain, baruch Hashem.

I need to call Hilary to tell her I’m fine. She and two of our children were in her car a few minutes ahead of me.

There was smoke coming out of the steering wheel and it smelled like a firecracker had gone off. I looked around and realized that the car was not on fire but thought it wise to get out of the car just in case.

How am I going to get to the wedding in time to say a bracha? I knew I couldn’t just abandon my car here.

I called Hilary and told her what happened and that I was fine. She dropped off the children and came back to me.

Then I called Allstate, my insurance company to tell them about the accident and to arrange for my car to be towed. Considering the weather conditions, it was not a surprise when I was told it would be almost 2 hours before any tow truck would arrive. Resigned to missing the wedding, I encouraged my wife to go back to the wedding.

A few people passed me on the way to the wedding, including Rabbi and Mrs. Garfinkel who stopped to make sure I was ok.

I was a little disoriented and hadn’t thought of calling the police to report the accident yet until an elderly couple who were oustide shovelling their sidewalk, told me to call the police because it was unsafe to leave the car in the road as it was.

I called 911 and a female police officer arrived in minutes. She was very nice and calming as she assessed the situation. She asked if I could move the car and my initial answer was no because I had tried unsuccessfully to start the car after the accident. I said I would try again. Sitting back in my car, I realized it was still in drive. I put it in park and it started fine and I moved the car to the side. Another younger male officer arrived a little later and did all the paperwork. The senior officer explained that since it was a rookie officer doing the paperwork and he had to follow all the rules, I would be issued with a citation for damaging public property (the tree) and would have to appear in court. But they were very nice about it and apologized and said I would probably get off. They even let me drive my car to the hotel! The elderly couple helped secure part of the car so it wouldn’t drag on the ground and very slowly, I drove to the hotel, which was only five minutes away.

I arrived at the hotel, literally minutes before the wedding was about to begin, entering the hall even after the bride.

I did get to say a blessing under the chupah to the newly married couple and danced with great simcha with the chassan.


Laura and Zev

The next morning at shacharis (morning services, after checking with Rabbi Gross, I ‘bentsched gomeyl’ (said the traditional prayer after surviving a life threatening incident).

I returned the next morning to arrange the towing of my car to my trusted auto mechanic, McCormick Auto Repair, just a block away from the Wifi, where I work. Dominique, the expert there, took one look at the damage and said the car was totaled! He explained that he could see that a part of the frame of the car had been buckled and would cost too much to repair.

Well, he was right. Allstate called me a few days later to tell me that they had made the same assessment. So for now, I am driving in a four wheel Jeep Cherokee, feeling safer, and researching the options for my next car.

In the hours and days following the accident, I replayed the events. I realized how fortunate I was to be alive. I had lost complete control of the car and could have spun into ongoing traffic at an angle that could have killed me, chas v’shalom (G-d forbid). Or I could have spun across the road into the ditch on the other side. I was fortunate no one else was in the car or that any other car was involved.

I got an early Chanukah miracle 🙂

At sheva brachos for Zev and Laura later that week, I remarked that we should take dramatic moments in our lives and channel the energy into something practical in our service of G-d. I’ve now started learning 15 minutes of mussar a day.

As I tell my students, G-d is talking to us all the time through the events in our lives. He is inviting us to listen and wants us to talk back to Him.







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