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On the Outskirts of Death


Marianna Hernandez

It was in 1986 that a catastrophic nuclear explosion happened at the Autobomb Electrostation in Chernobyl, northwest of Kiev. This horrific accident affected much of Europe. The radioactive cloud, which spread throughout most areas of Ukraine and beyond, caused thousands of deaths and illnesses. This was a worldwide catastrophe, which no one in Europe has ever forgotten.

The accident affected me to a great extent. I turned from a normal, healthy, young girl into a weak and sickly child going from one doctor to the next. Most of my childhood memories consisted of hospital scenes and trips to the outskirts of Kiev in search of some
more treatment. It was not a cheerful and jolly time for me at all. I grew up practically as a medical guinea pig, just like hundreds of other children at that time.

At six years old, I went through a very scary experience that changed my entire childhood life. It was in the winter of 1989, when my family and I planned to take a trip to a county outside of Kiev,
where another physician was located. The morning of the trip was warm and nice. It wasn't snowing and was just perfect weather for where we were heading. 

Our destination was quite far away, and it took some time to get there. During the drive I tried to keep myself busy by looking out the window, enjoying the view of passing trees and forests. I couldn't even imagine anything going wrong, because to me it seemed like such a pleasant and relaxing trip.

After a considerable amount of time, we crossed over a bridge and were half way to our destination. However, the road we drove on next was unlike any other road, it seemed very strange. It was pretty quiet and there were no cars around except ours. 

Driving further, my mom and I got a little tired from the trip and fell asleep. Later, when my mom woke up, she realized that we were driving on a slippery road. Looking out the front window, she saw that the road turned pretty icy. This was very dangerous, because our car could have easily lost control and we would have no one to help us. 

Suddenly, in a matter of minutes, mom noticed a truck coming towards us from afar. Dad slowed down and tried to drive more carefully, so as not to run into it. But the farther we drove, the closer it came towards us. 

I didn't get too scared at first; I guess it was because my parents tried to stay calm as much as possible so as not to worry me. But when the car gained a lot more speed and began to suddenly slide to the left and to the right of the road, I understood that our car was losing control. I got really terrified. 

I didn't know what was happening; why was the car speeding up? Why was it suddenly out of control? I kept praying that we would be okay, and that we wouldn't crash into the massive truck, which kept approaching closer by the minute.

When the truck had reached just a feet away from us, dad was thankfully able to pull the wheel away from the truck. But instead of going straight, the car, being out of control, had slid to the left of the road and on to a cliff. This was one turn I'll never forget. The car pulled by a cliff and slipped down onto the edge of it. 

I was beyond scared; my heart raced, as my entire childhood life flashed before my eyes. The car hung on the cliff like a seesaw. In a matter of seconds it could have easily slipped and we would all be dead. I have never felt death reach so close to me before -- merely the thought of it gave me the chills. 

I hated death, even though at the age of six I didn't really know it's meaning, but I feared it anyway, and now I was on the verge of facing it.

"Here on this far away highway miles away from home was to be my final end," I kept repeating to myself.

But, thankfully, I was wrong! This was actually one of the first times in my life that I was actually happy to be wrong. We managed to get out safely, carefully slipping out one by one, just in time to get some help from a car that was passing by. I don't quite remember how we got our vehicle back on the road, but the important thing was that we did. We were really thankful to the guy for helping us, but were a lot more grateful to G-d for sparing our lives. 

This experience has taught me an important lesson. I learned that even in the most crucial moments, where all hope is gone, G-d reaches out and stretches His hand to help us. I realized that life is precious and we need to treasure it as much as possible. It's unfortunate, though, that we don't always recognize life's importance until a miracle comes our way. But, then again, how can we understand how precious life really is, unless we come close to losing it?

We need to trust and believe that we can accomplish our goals in life no matter what, because that is the most important concept of all. We have to believe that G-d will guide us through many journeys of life, whether they are good or bad, and if we are bound to succeed and overcome our obstacles, then we will do so. Life is like a roller coaster; one day you're soaring up high, the next you're crashing down below.

A lot of times, our bad experiences discourage us from believing in the existence of goodness in this world. They sink us deep into abysmal despair, from which we don't always know how to escape.

But, no matter how bad life gets, we should unceasingly remember that there is always a spark of light shining through the end of the passing darkness.

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