"I can't even remember the collision. All I remember is the car turning around and around. I don't even know if we were on the ground or in the air then. All I could think of was trying to protect Rodney."
As Charlotie Williams spoke, sitting in bed at Washington Hospital Center, she occasionally winced and swallowed hard. Speech was difficult with her broken jaw wired, but she wanted to talk.
One week earlier, the car driven by Williams, 20, who was accompanied by her fiance, Rodney Lomax, 23, had been struck from behind by another car on the Anacostia Freeway. Williams' car planged 85 feet from an overpass near the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, and its passengers survived the crash.
"I'm just thankful right now," Williams said, fingering a Bible lying on her blanket.
"It's funny, sort of, because I've never been very religious. But the day of the accident, I was telling Rodney that we'd been missing too much church because we were staying out late (on) Saturdays and we should do some praying driving home at night," she said.
"We had just finished praying when it happened," she said.
The accident occurred at 10:20 p.m. Nov. 1, on a drizzly Tuesday night. Williams, who works as a key punch operator for Advanced Business and Computer supply services in Arlington, had just picked up Lomax after a night calss he was attending at the University of the District of Columbia. They were heading for home in Bowie.
On the night of Nov. 1, Robert Moore, 27, and his cousin Collins Moore, 19, were enroute to their home on Colorado Avenue NW. They had stopped at the Hillcrest Shell station on Naylor Road SE. where they both work so Robert could lock up his mechanic's tools for the night.
Robert, who was driving, says he "had a couple of beers," while at the gas station. He added that he was going "about 50 or 55," as he approached the overpass where the accident occurred.
The entire incident, from the time of the collision until the time when Williams' car hit the ground below, took less than 1 minute. But for the three people involved, the accident itself was only the beginning of a tragic ordeal that thousands of people go through every year.
According to police Robert Moore struck the 1975 Grand Torino Williams was driving from behind, causing it to mount the guard rail and go off the bridge. He was charged by police with exceeding the speed limit (45); driving while under the influence, and driving without a permit. Moore has an Ohio driver's license but is a Washington resident. He appeared in court on Nov. 11. His case was continued then until Jan. 20.
"I'm sorry it happened and I'm sorry they were hurt," Moore said two days after the accident. "I'm certainly planning on visiting them as soon as I can."
Seventeen days later, Williams and Lomax, both now at home, said they had not yet seen Moore.
"I wish he would come by, I really do," Williams said softly. "I want him to know that accidents can happen and I know that. I want him to know that I'm not out to kill him or anything like that. I'd just like a chance to talk to him."
It was not until Nov. 8 that Lomax, who works for the Navy Council Personnel Board, was removed from the intensive care unit. While Williams suffered a broken jaw, scalp and facial lacerations, Lomax was more seriously injured. Several of his ribs were broken, he suffered a partially collapsed lung, which inhibits breathing, and also suffered head and face lacerations.
"I'd like to meet him (Moore) too," Lomax said, speaking quitly with just a tinge of bitterness in his voice. "I mean, I think I could talk to him about it. I'd really just like to ask him why he did it, why he was driving that way.
"I don't really hold it against him. We could talk to each other . . . as long as he didn't get smart or anything like that."
Moore moved back to Washington last March after living in Cleveland for three years. Born in Alabama, he had previously lived in Washington from 1968 until 1974.
"I don't even remember seeing the car go over the guard rail," Moore said. "We collided and then I skidded. By the time I stopped they were already over. People started stopping and looking to see what happened. I don't even know exactly what happened after we hit."
Of the three people involved, Lomax appears to remember it all best. "Yeah, I remember it," he said, lowering his vice almost to a whisper. "I knew I was doing to die the minute we went through the railing. I grew up in Southeast and I knew just where we were. I knew we were going to land on the railroad tracks."
But they did not land on the railroad tracks; they landed on a dirt and grass embankment right next to them. "When I woke up, my first thought was 'Thank God,' just because I was alive," Lomax said. "Then I wanted to know what all the tubes they had in me were. I was really startled.
"Since I've been here (in the hospital) I've done some thinking. I I mean, I knew I was going to die and really feel like I'm on my second life.I didn't. Now I will go to church with Charlotte."
Both Lomax and Williams hope to return to their jobs within the next two or three weeks. They received flowers from their employers and have been told their jobs will be waiting for them when they return. Lomax said both he and Williams are medically insured. Moore returned to his job the day after the accident. His cousin Collins Moore was uninjured.
Williams and Lomax have hired a lawyer, Ronald Schiff, to represent their interests. Schiff said that the outcome of Lomax' criminal case will have no bearing on any civil action he may take on behlf of his clients. He added that he was trying to find out whether or not Moore had any insurance.
"I have no insurance," Moore said. "I've been taking a cab to work every day since the accident because the front fender is of my car and I can't drive it. I'm paying $8.50 a day for transportation." He added that he has decided to hire a lawyer, after first considering defending himself.
It will be months, if not longer, before the three people involved stop feeling the aftershocks of the accident.
Whatever the outcome of Moore's hearing in January, there are bound to be further legal battles fought when it is over. And without insurance, it probably will be a while before Moore can use his car again. It is extremely unlikely that he will face a jail sentence, but he could pay a considerable fine if found guilty.
Williams says her insurance company will take care of the loss of her car - which was destroyed - but adds that she does not plan on doing any driving, "for a long time." Lomax is not sure if he can make up the work he missed in his engineering courses at UDC in time to take exams this semester.
And the accident will have one more lasting effect, at least for Lomax. "I guess," he said, "from now on, when I read about accident, I'll think twice before I go on to the next thing."