Sara Wilda has been an elementary school art teacher for 26 years. She enjoys her kids’ energy and fresh approach to art. “I love watching them get it. That ‘aha’ moment,” she says. “They’re fresh and want to try new things. They still believe in magic.”
That’s a good thing, since Sara lives and works in Appleton, Wis., the childhood home of illusionist Harry Houdini. On her way to school one morning last April, she experienced a little magic of her own after a nearly heart-stopping event.
“I was just on the way to work, not in a hurry,” says Sara. She was, however, cruising along without thinking about the route she’d traveled twice a day for 26 years.
Only this spring morning, as she crested the hill of an overpass, Sara was horrified to discover traffic suddenly stopped for construction, on a bridge where traffic had never before been stopped.
‘I totaled my car in an instant.’
“I’m in a Cruze and in front of me is a Chevy Silverado,” Sara recalls. “I tried to swerve into the other lane, but the right front corner of my car hit the back left corner of his truck. I totaled my car in an instant. I had never been in a crash.”
In shock, Sara was surrounded by broken glass and several deployed air bags. There was also “the voice of a kind and very calm woman from OnStar talking to me and asking me if I was all right. Her voice was the first thing that told me I didn’t die. I think she was the one who called 911.* I was panicking.”
The OnStar Advisor had a calming effect, and asked if she should call someone in Sara’s family. “I said, ‘I’m okay, I’m okay. Can you call my husband?’”
‘She was totally calm. And I was not.’
In the meantime, a man from another vehicle approached because her car had crossed lanes and he feared it would be hit by another vehicle. The man asked Sara if she was OK and said there was fuel beneath the car. He suggested she get out if she could.
“I never got to thank the OnStar lady. It was so wonderful to hear a human voice in that second. She was totally calm and I was not.”
‘The conversation I have with my kids is different now.’
Six months later, Sara is grateful that her Cruze saved her life and OnStar provided a calm, caring connection when she needed it. She still thinks about the crash twice a day … when she crosses that same bridge to and from work.
“You’re more aware of everything,” says Sara, adding that she talks to her own kids, who are 18, 21 and 23, about safe driving.
“The conversation I have with my kids is different now. When they leave to go anywhere, I tell them, ‘Be careful. Expect the unexpected.’” One of them recently told her, “I’m a good driver,” and she replied, “I’m a good driver, too. No one plans for an accident.”