HOLLY SPRINGS — The oncoming tractor trailer made a sickening sound, a low whoosh as its wheels lost traction in the thick snow and its long caboose swung out across the highway, toward the car paralyzed on the side of the road.
Amanda Dick and her two young girls were barely free when the trailer smashed into their rental car.
The impact dragged the vehicle along the guard wires for several feet and it bent the back seat where the girls still would have been buckled in, if it werent for 7-year-old Alexandria.
For her quick action, the Holly Springs youngster was honored by a police ceremony at Town Hall last month.
Amanda Dick and her daughters were returning from a family trip last month, southbound on Interstate 77 through West Virginia when a freak snowstorm blanketed the steeply graded roads. Traffic was slowing when a sedans sudden move sent the car spinning in front of and into the Dicks black four-door.
I saw her face, Dick said. I said, Girls, were going to get hit.
That first collision sent the Dicks careening into a third car, then into the median, where they crunched against the taut metal wires of the guardrail. Traffic still rushed by on the passenger side, while the drivers side doors were caught against the median.
Something told Amanda Dick it wasnt over.
My fear is always to be trapped in a vehicle and then get smashed by another vehicle, she said. I was screaming at them, Get out, get out, get out!
The mothers first instinct, she said, was to crawl out the drivers side window, hoping to pull her daughters through the rear window. Her eldest was one step ahead by the time Amanda Dick reached the back of the car, Alexandria, was pushing 4-year-old Lauren out the window.
The precocious girl had unbuckled herself and her sister, and may have lowered the window herself.
My only feeling was, OK ... we need to get our family out here right now. I felt really scared, said Alexandria, who wants to be a veterinarian one day. All I heard was, Get out, get out and whenever my mom says something, I usually do it.
Soon afterward three seconds, the girls say in unison the family heard that sickening whoosh. Huddled in the thin median, they saw the tractor trailer fishtailing down the hill toward them, losing control as its rear end swung out toward the Dicks car.
When it hit, it sprayed a wave of snow and ice across the mother and her daughters, and it buckled the back seat of the car, throwing one of the girls car seats forward.
Thats when we would have been dead, Dick said. I would have been feet out (the window), trying to unclip them. Thats when we would have got hit.
Through the next hours, Dick and her daughters were shepherded toward home by a cast of friendly characters.
There were the former U.S. Marines who offered curly fries and restrained Amanda Dick from assaulting the driver who started the chain-reaction crash, she said. And there was the state trooper who drove them to Enterprise for a new rental.
For Amanda Dick and her husband, the close call cut straight through family stress.
Just praise and thanks, thanks and praise, said Tony Dick, who was home in Holly Springs when the crash happened. As rough and as bad as things can be ... its made me appreciate them a whole lot more.
In the weeks after the crash, the insurance people called, and the state police processed their report. Wanting to commemorate her daughters quick thinking, Amanda Dick asked the Holly Springs Police Department if they could honor Alexandria.
When they arrived at Town Hall, they found a contingent of elected officials, town staff and local police waiting with a certificate and a speech, all arranged by Lt. Mike Patterson.
He really made it a big deal, Amanda Dick said. And in my mind it is a big deal but everyone thinks that about their kid.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary