That Time I Threw a Nice Lady Across Jack in the Box

I met Von Brown in person for the first time on August 25, 1997, although we had spoken over the phone dozens of times prior to that. Von worked as a Computer Specialist for the FAA in Denver, Colorado, while I worked for the help desk in Oklahoma City. I worked there from the spring of 1995 until the summer of 1996, at which point I myself was hired as a Computer Specialist for the FAA and moved to Spokane, Washington. Both Washington state and Colorado were a part of the Northwest Mountain Region, and so even after I moved, Von and I spoke over the phone and collaborated on projects frequently.

In the summer of 1997, our agency was in the throws of upgrading tens of thousands of workstations from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. Both Von and I had volunteered to travel to Seattle and assist with upgrading the machines there. After speaking to one another over the phone for more than two years, I finally got to meet Von in person. She was roughly the same age as my parents, petite, and as sweet as they come.

After meeting Von in the lobby of our hotel, the next order of business was to find somewhere to eat dinner. We hopped in the rental car, and began driving. Back before I had a GPS, I was always afraid to wander too far from my hotel. The first restaurant we passed was Jack in the Box, and so that’s where we decided to eat. (I’m sure the decision was more mine than Von’s.)

After ordering our dinner, the two of us walked through the mostly empty restaurant and picked a place to sit. We ended up sitting in an atrium with one entire wall made of glass. Von sat with her back to the wall of windows; I sat across from her, looking out the window.

What happened next happened very quickly, and I will never forget it.

Out of the corner of my eye, through the windows behind Von, I saw what I thought was a large black bird flaying through the parking lot toward us. It took a second for my brain to realize that it wasn’t a bird, but a black Honda Civic, flying through the air in our direction.

The car landed maybe fifty feet away from us in the parking lot and began to “barrel roll” toward the restaurant. As I leaped to my feet, Von must have heard the crash and instinctively ducked her head down. In the trunk of the car, a toolbox opened and metal wrenches and sockets began smashing into the restaurant’s windows. My natural reaction was to get Von away from the windows, so I grabbed her by her shirt and, much like a bowling ball, sent her sliding across the restaurant’s floor.

Suddenly, all the noise stopped.

I yelled at the kid behind the counter to call 911, helped Von up off the floor, and then headed for the exit.

Through the glass door I could see the car. It was resting twenty feet away from the restaurant, and upside down. Gas was pouring out of it, and I was afraid the car was going to explode. Roughly twenty feet to the left of the car laying in the parking lot was a guy. He was on his back with his knees bent and appeared dazed, but alive.

I pushed the door open and when I did, it hit a woman. She had been thrown from the car, and had landed head-first on the curbed sidewalk around the restaurant. The impact had split her head open, and I could see her brains. You don’t forget a thing like that. I knelt down beside her and tried to talk to her. She made some sounds, but she couldn’t understand me, and vice versa.

I vaguely remember Von coming up behind me, and me telling her she didn’t want to go out there. I stepped back inside, and she gave me a hug.

In my mind, emergency vehicles arrived almost immediately. Unfortunately for us, one of the first things they did was surround the entire parking lot in yellow accident scene tape, which prevented our car from leaving.

One thing I vividly remember is watching one of the firemen reach inside the upside-down car, unbuckle a child’s car seat, and remove a young child from the car. The id looked to be three or four years old, and had been hanging upside down inside the car the entire time. The kid was completely unharmed.

I spoke with one of the officers on the scene and told him everything I had seen. One of the officers told me that the tint on the restaurant’s windows had kept the tools from sailing through them and sending metal and glass everywhere. A few weeks later when I was back in Spokane, I received a phone call from a different officer, asking me to make a statement over the phone. They told me the woman had died at the scene, the driver was in the hospital, and the kid was fine. He also told me neither of the adults were wearing a seat belt, which is why they were ejected. The driver had come around the corner too quickly, lost control of his car, and slid through the ditch, which is what sent the car into the air.

After almost an hour inside the restaurant, the officers removed the crime scene tape surrounding the parking lot and allowed us to leave. Von and I left Jack in the Box and headed back to the hotel with one heck of a story.

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