Usually I enjoy the Fourth of July. I like the celebration. I like seeing the flags fly and I love watching the kids pop their fireworks.

Yeah, the Fourth and I go way back.

But this year, I’d just like to fast forward past the Fourth and go on to say, maybe this Friday.

Or next week.

The day started out good. We’d traveled to Pawnee County to visit my brothers and their families — Karen and me, plus a van full of kids and food.

And most of the day went off without a hitch. Sure, there’s always a little family drama, but show me a family without drama and I show you family that doesn’t exist.

I should have suspected something because it wasn’t the typical July day.

The sky had been dark and overcast most of the afternoon, and even though it threatened rain, it was cool and there was a breeze.

Then, just at dark, it started to rain.

And in rained and rained and rained.

Since it was obvious there weren’t going to be any more fireworks, Karen, Zach and I decided to call it a day and drive to my parents home about 30 miles away.

The drive isn’t bad — usually — and it doesn’t take that long. Besides, I wanted to spend a little time with my parents and I knew they wanted to see their youngest grandchild.

So we sat off, fighting the holiday traffic and sheets of rain.

We shouldn’t have.

About three miles outside of Cleveland, Okla., the traffic had come to a crawl. People pulled over because of the downpour.

But I told myself we should keep going.

I’d just started to climb a large hill when I noticed headlights of a truck that kept veering into my lane. I pulled over as far as I could go, but the idiot who was supposed to be going the opposite direction, decided she wanted in my lane, too.

And before I knew it, we collided — head on — her truck and my van.

Because I was just crawling along, and because the other driver couldn’t see well enough to get up to full speed no one was injured.

But that didn’t matter.

Because just after the truck nailed me, she drove off. I looked for a place to turn around, and went back down the hill to the spot where the accident occurred and called 911 — the driver, however, was gone.

A Highway Patrol trooper stopped to make sure me and my family were OK, then went back into Cleveland to catch the other driver.

Now, had I been 15 years younger, I would have simply cussed and followed the other driver to find the idiot who hit me.

But this time, I was actually frightened.

This time, I realized just how close I came to losing my own life and the lives of my infant son and my beautiful wife.

Had circumstances been just a little different, my whole life would have changed. All my dreams, hopes and everything I’d worked for — school, my family, my career — everything would be gone.

On any other night that accident could have killed us all, or anyone of my family — all because someone got tanked up on alcohol and decided to take their share of the road out of the middle.

It’s happened before.

And I know it will happen again.

But what bothers me is the arrogance of the whole situation: How someone I don’t know, and have never done anything to, can fundamentally alter my life and the lives of my family — without even asking.

Now I understand why Mothers Against Drunk Driving stays MADD.

By the time we made it to my parents home, my mother was frantic. I watched the tears cascade down her cheeks as she prayed, thanking the Almighty that Karen, Zach and I were not injured.

Since then I’ve said my share of ‘thank you’ prayers, too. But the fact remains that people will still drink and drive.

And because of that act, innocent people will get hurt or even killed.

The night of July Fourth I was lucky.

But sometime in the future, another person, with just as many hopes and dreams and desires won’t be.

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