(Written Feb. 13, 2013, this was a short writing exercise for JAMM-425 Feature Article Writing at University of Idaho.)
By Jonathan Gradin
History student Matt McCune does not fit the traditional image of a priest. The 41-year-old clergyman of the Holy Name of Jesus Anglican Catholic Church resembles a rugged cowboy, with bushy red mustache, long hair tied back and lines of age and experience creasing his face. He wears an informal, black buttoned shirt and a long, gray coat and walks with a well-worn wooden cane.
Yet like the cowboys of olden days, McCune has experienced many trials, including a car wreck in 2008 that had providential implications for this man of faith.
“In April 2008, I had gone to Austin, Texas, ahead of my wife,” McCune recalled. “She and I had been given a notice to vacate, that we weren’t going to have our lease renewed. So I’d gone ahead to Austin and got a job working for Smith Protective Services. It’s a security company that has been around for 100 years.”
Having an operating vehicle was mandatory in this job, McCune said. He and his best friend John Boleyn, also a security guard, lived out of a red 1979 Ford Econoline E150 van, parking and sleeping in Walmart parking lots while saving for permanent housing. The van was on its last legs, its candy apple red paint faded to primer, exhaust filling the cabin on highway trips.
One night after 9 p.m., June 28, McCune and Boleyn stopped at a grocery store to buy food. McCune was low on gas and money, so they decided to head over to a nearby church that offered gas vouchers to the first 20 people in line at 4:30 a.m. When he tried to start the engine, a horrible grinding noise issued from the starter.
“My first thought was ‘Oh, crap, I’m out of a job,’” McCune said “I was very frightened that I had just put myself out of a job, and this was just as the economy was beginning to crash.”
After 30 or 40 minutes, Boleyn said, “Why don’t you try it one more time?” Cringing, McCune turned the key, and sure enough, the van started right away.
“Cool! I don’t know what that was before, but let’s get out of here,” McCune said to Boleyn. “Let’s go get in that church parking lot and spend the night.”
As McCune drove through the parking lot, he spotted an early-model RAV4 sport utility vehicle, with a mom, dad and two kids in carseats coming their way, and he thought, “I want to get ahead of them. That light is really short, and I want to be the first one out of the gate because I don’t have much gas.” He raced ahead and got in the left turn lane first.
This selfish action saved that family’s life.
When the light turned green, McCune pulled out. As he entered the intersection he glanced left and saw a pair of headlights approaching far too quickly. What happened next, McCune said he sees in slow motion to this day.
“I slammed the gas pedal, turned sharper into the turn, and leaned over to the right as hard as I could,” McCune recalled, “and I yelled out to my friend John, ‘Hold on; we’re about to get hit.’”
At that instant, the drunk driver’s car hit at more than 55 miles per hour. McCune flopped left, into the frame behind the driver’s door, then right, dashing his lip on the center console table, followed by another slam into the door, leaving him bruised and bloodied. The 3,500-pound van’s sturdy construction and tall captain’s chairs spared both occupants although visible scars remain on McCune’s face. Both McCune and Boleyn walked away with minor injuries.
“Do you remember what we were talking about while we were waiting for the light to change?” McCune asked Boleyn the next day.
“Yeah, how plastic SUV’s should be illegal because they’re so dangerous in a wreck,” replied Boleyn.
Looking back almost five years later, McCune said the incident was a faith-bolstering act of God, in which he unintentionally saved that family. The crash would have killed at least one of the children and parents, had he not been first. Additionally, the insurance settlement—he had purchased uninsured motorist coverage only three months prior—paid for a much-needed new car.
“It led me to hold a much more providential view about how God cares for people,” McCune said. “Everything that God does has multiple layers of reason.
“It also taught me to look before making a protected left turn.”