My Anthem: A Story of One Officer's Amazing Survival

I would respectfully like to share my story with you. It is about surviving, healing, faith and forgiveness. And somewhere in this journey I have discovered a police officer I never thought I was or could be. 

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to turn life’s light on. I have seen this road many times; destination unknown.

 I know life is just a ride but we never know where life will take us, never know when death will shake us and we wonder how it will feel. 

Life is so fragile, we can't hold on but we try. We watch how quickly it disappears, and we never know why. You know the smallest thing can change your life. In the blink of an eye something happens by chance when you least expect it. Sets you on a course you never planned, into a future you never imagined. Where will it take you? That's the journey of our lives. Our search for the light. But sometimes finding that light, means you must pass through the deepest darkness. Scars are the souvenirs you never lose, the past is never far away. 

Everyone has their own destiny, not everyone makes the choice to follow it. So let your life begin, just remember that your dreams they are a promise, follow who you are. It’s not the breath you take; it’s the moments that take your breath away. Remember, in the end the greatest thing about your journey is not so much where you stand at any given time as it is about what direction you’re moving…Your finest day is yet unknown… 

“With no one alive to forgive, in a prayer to God, I sent my forgiveness to the drunk driver” 

Part#1 Surviving… On December 19, 2007 at approximately 11:20 pm, while in the line of duty with Ellijay Police, (Georgia) I was hit head on by a drunk driver. I had just left the Gilmer County Detention Center in reference to picking up a temporary protective order for another officer, working an active case. I was traveling west bound on highway 52, approximately two miles from the Gilmer County Detention Center. I had just exited a bridge on a curve, near Owltown road, when I observed two headlights in my lane. 

All I remember is turning my steering wheel left. I do not know how long I was unconscious. There is a time frame I have no recollection of events. I do not remember leaving the Gilmer County Detention Center, but I do remember the two headlights, and just a sensation of a collision, no pain, it is like I was temporarily absent from myself. Maybe it is the body’s way of protecting sanity, and fear. 

It is apparent after a review of 911 tapes, I realize the imminent danger I was still in, low visibility, fog, darkness, and the position, and final resting place of the accident scene. By some miracle I was protected from a second collision. 

From the calls placed to 911 I have listened to, I can hear the panic, fear, and what I call freeze frame shock in the caller’s voice. If pictures do speak a thousand words, it was a thousand words too many. 

As I regained consciousness, I remember someone yelling my name, “Bagley! Bagley! Bagley”! For a moment in time I was trapped in a nightmare, with no escape. I could not get my body to move. It was like I was paralyzed. I heard noise’s outside my patrol car, and again I heard someone yelling, “Bagley! Bagley! Bagley”! Time seemed to stand still for me. The next thing I remember was seeing flashing red and blue lights. Emergency personnel around me. Paramedics, EMT’s, Law Enforcement, and Firemen, they were trying to free me from entrapment in my patrol car. 

Over the loud noises around me, I heard someone mention the status of the other driver, that they were 10-109d. Of all the noises that surrounded me that night, those words 10-109d were the loudest words I have ever heard. I knew that meant someone was dead. I remember asking the Paramedic if the driver was dead. He hesitated, and said yes. 

The most terrifying fear came over me. All I could do was cry. I was scared, because I could not remember what happened. Horrifying thoughts started to plague my mind. Is this my fault, could I have done something to prevent this? 

Every fear my mind could conceive was happening to me. Even with critical injuries, I didn’t feel much pain. My pain was the haunting thoughts that someone had lost their life. 

Three days after my accident, and still struggling with what happened, my chief, and sergeant came to visit me in the hospital. I trembled in fear because I thought they were there to arrest me, because I just could not remember what happened. I was still pondering if this was my fault. I recall asking if I am under arrest. The Chief handed me a copy of the accident report. The Georgia State Patrol completed their investigation. The Chief said he wanted to bring the accident report to me to give me peace of mind. It concluded, and read, that I wasn’t at fault. Up until the report, everyone assured me it wasn’t my fault. I guess I just needed to read it for myself. 

Finally I could start the healing process. After being released from the hospital, I looked over the newspaper that had been saved and read the obituary. There I saw the driver’s name, and a picture. Once again I broke down, started to shake, and cry. My wife stood beside me silent while I went through a momentary breakdown. 

 During the process of my healing, I contacted the mother several times; it was something I needed to do. I have also visited the grave site many times since then, in respect of the life lost. I placed my badge in a small hole at the grave site. It was my way of saying goodbye, and I “forgive”. Now, I survive on. 

I might work for another law enforcement agency, but my mission continues, save a life, the life you save might be your very own. I hope I never have to tell a family their loved one has died because of an impaired driver, or from being impaired. There are too many victims, who lay in eternal rest, in gardens of stone. 

Sometimes at night I revisit that moment in a nightmare, and wonder what made the difference that December night, that a life was lost, and I survived. This is my testimony, this is my journey. 

(To be continued)

David Bagley