We have all had those moments when we seem to know what will come. Those moments when that little voice or feeling warns you not to drink the water because it has already seen the diarrhea that will result.
The problem with such premonitions is that we hardly trust them enough. And when a strong premonition is accompanied by a seemingly irrational fear, it becomes difficult to differentiate one from the other.
The Sudanese government rounded up 40 Ethiopian girls and put them on a bus back to Ethiopia. Just before the border, their bus crashed and killed everyone on board. Since I had met many of these girls at tea shops around Khartoum, the news was personal and very saddening.
While the news invoked apprehension I decided to continue with my plans to travel from Khartoum, Sudan to Gondar, Ethiopia by bus. “It couldn’t possibly happen again” I said aloud, in an attempt to reassure myself.
However, the night before my journey, not only did memories of this story plague my conscience but also a startlingly intense premonition of my very own bus crash.
I even told my mother on Skype that the thing I was most worried about was not getting kidnapped by extremists or dehydrating in the desert but being in a bus crash.
On the morning of departure, I awoke in a cold sweat. Although I had a terrible feeling, I could not be sure how much of that feeling was due to the recent bus crash I had been obsessing over or a real premonition.
And so, I reluctantly boarded the bus that I knew in my gut was doomed to crash.
While I had bought two seats, one for my bag and one for me, there were no seats left and so I was forced to sit on the ground in the middle aisle. “Great,” I thought sarcastically, “Now if we really do crash, I’m going to go flying out the front windshield.”
The driver accelerated as though his bladder was about to burst and from this moment on the prospects of actually crashing seemed a very real possibility.
Although the bus was massive, and had dangerously loose suspension, causing the bus to sway unnervingly side to side like a hammock, he drove her like a Ferrari. He continually and dangerously overtook cars while barely maneuvering back into our lane in the face of oncoming traffic.
With each near miss, my anxiety grew. Finally, I yelled, “You’re going to f***ing kill us, you stupid son of a b****.” But my pleads could not be heard by this seemingly cracked out maniac.
Exhausted, I tried to quell my anxiety and rest. I shut my eyes for what felt like a few minutes and then it happened.
I immediately awoke to the nightmare that I had dreaded for weeks
I desperately tried to gain control of the situation but my senses were too slow. The events that were unfolding were too fast and I could not comprehend what was occurring.
I was in panic and was certain death would soon follow.
My sight focused and I realized that we were careening off the road and headed directly for a large sand embankment. As we left the asphalt at around 40mph, the bus trembled, threatening to break apart.
I braced myself, my arms locked around the bases of the adjacent seats.
I closed my eyes.
My body lunged forward but my arms held strong.
I opened my eyes. We had come to a stop and I was still alive, a wonderful realization.
I quickly shook off the shock of the crash, gathered my things, and got the hell off that bus.
A few hundred meters away was the car we hit. Since I had a few medical supplies in my bag, I ran over as fast as I could to see if I could help them.
It was a horror scene. Inside the mangled car was a family of three, all unconscious, all covered in blood. I stood there in utter shock not knowing what to do.
Suddenly a group of Sudanese men arrived from a nearby village. They swiftly but carefully began removing the bodies from the car. Surprisingly, just a few minutes later an ambulance arrived. I watched in disbelief while quietly praying for the family.
When it was all over, my shock quickly turned to anger, anger at the driver, anger at the Sudanese government for their inadequate roads and safety standards and anger at myself for not trusting my instincts.
As I walked alone towards Ethiopia on that scorching desert road, I decided that from then on, I would never again distrust or dismiss a premonition.