"I was driving on my own to a gig in Colorado when my tour van skidded on some black ice," says singer/songwriter Astra Kelly. "When the wheels hit the dirt, the van started rolling over, and I heard the horrible sound of crushing metal, then all went silent." Her van was resting upside down on train tracks. "I could smell gas and, in fear of explosion, quickly unhooked my seatbelt, fell to the ground, opened the door, and scrambled out.
"Scattered along the side of the road were pieces of me...my posters, flyers, CDs, PA speakers, clothes and blankets, and other little trinkets were everywhere." A driver who'd witnessed the accident helped Kelly gather things and contact police via cell phone, though they were told cops were busy and wouldn't arrive for another hour.
"Just before 12 [midnight], we saw the tiny light of a train coming down the tracks. We had tried to call the train company to warn them with no luck, and another call to the police was fruitless. We waited as the train approached. I held my breath for what seemed like forever.... The explosion of glass and metal was amazing, shattering in every direction and what seemed like hundreds of feet into the air before falling back to the earth like snowflakes sparkling in the light of the moon. The engineer hit the brakes, but the train dragged the van under the front for the entire mile that it took it to stop." Police arrived, and no traffic citations were issued.
Kelly says her life reached a "major turning point" that night.
"The inexplicable events that catapult us into states of awe and grace, these are the snapshots we carry in our minds as we tackle the challenges of life. For me, the crash was so far the single most important event in my own evolution. It was intensely swift and quick, like a warrior's sword, just the way I like it."
Beginning this month, Astra Kelly hosts The Homegrown Radio Hour on KPRI 102.1, Saturday nights from 9 to 10 p.m. She performs January 22 at Dublin Square.