Road to Marbella


In the fall of 1974 we moved to Rota, Spain where my husband was employed as a civilian with the US Department of the Navy. I continued my education through the overseas extention of the University of Maryland. This was a grand adventure for us. We took advantage of every opportunity to travel.

The four of us were on a long holiday weekend – late winter or early spring since I was still wearing long sleeves. For mid 70’s Spain the road to Marbella was good enough – straight and wide. So it’s still a bit of a mystery why the car with German plates became airborne on that particular board sweep of road near Estepona. Travelling the opposite direction, we watched in silent slow motion as the Mercedes left the road arching up the gentle embankment. Tires spinning without  a road to hug, it continued through a double barrel roll and whumped upside down in a culvert, blowing out its back window.

First on the scene, our front car doors burst open, yelling at the kids to stay put, we ran across the road. (As resident motorists of Spain, we were obliged to stop and assist at accidents and if necessary function as an ambulance, taking the injured to the nearest medical facility.) Crawling in through the back window, I found two older women belted upside down in the wreckage conscious but disoriented. The older one had a freshly bleeding head wound. In the midst of calming their growing distress and trying to evaluate any other injuries, I became aware the car was beginning to rock from side to side.

Others who had stopped at the scene were trying vigorously to right the vehicle – without removing the injured first! Scrambling back out of the car, I was confronted by what seemed like a great wave of Spaniards who assumed I’d also been in the car when the accident occurred. Overwhelmed by their all-at-once questions, any Spanish I knew blew out along with the car’s windows.

Somehow, haphazardly, the women were pulled from the wreckage. Without regard to their injuries they were folded into tiny circus-sized cars that sped off down the road toward the nearest hospital white handerchiefs waving frantically from the drivers’ window to indicate they had been instantly transformed into emergency vehicles.

Unnerved, unsettled, overwhelmed, culturally shocked – out of control. A life transforming wreckage – the beginning of the journey. Unlike Paul on the rode to Damascus, I wasn’t blinded. But I was at least bloodied. The stains were on the cuffs of my blouse as well as my soul. Nor did Ananias come to me in three days so that I might be healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. That would happen in another five years in a hospice office half a world away.


End Notes – The collage papers are fragments from the Base de Rota Naval Spanish/English phrase book, Oct 1974, and scanned images from my Spain travel journal, magazine and map details, Oct 1992.