On September 9th 2002, my band Candiria entered a phase that I now refer to as “the beginning of the end “. We were on our way to a gig in Cleveland, Ohio when we experienced a life altering event. What started out as just another day on tour, morphed into an event that would reshape our lives as both individuals, as well as a band.
At 9am while driving in our tour van we were hit from behind by an 18 wheel semi truck. The driver of the truck had fallen asleep and according to the police reports, started approaching speeds in access of 95 mph. I recall this event as clear as if it had happened yesterday. I remember waking up and wondering how far we were from our destination. I was only awake for a few minutes when I heard our Driver/Tour Manager shout “oh shit”
That was the beginning of the most horrific day of my life. I can still hear the smashing and twisting of metal, the shattering of glass, and the screams of my brothers trying to make sense of something completely unbelievable. I remember trying to grab on to something, anything to gain some kind of control of the chaos that was going down. The next thing I recall is being sucked out of a side window and rolling end over end on the paved road.
When my body finally came to a halt, I was on my back extremely dazed but very aware that something terrible had just happened. I couldn’t see much because there was a huge cloud of smoke and dust enveloping the entire area I was in. I immediately started to spit what turned out to be glass and gravel from my mouth. I reached for my face first, to feel if I was bleeding from the head. I felt to make sure my nose, ears and eyes were all still there. I looked down to make sure my legs and feet were in tact. I saw a hole in my left ankle that extended into a deep foot long gash going up my left calf. I saw that there was a golf ball sized contusion growing under the skin on my left hand. I shoved the injured hand into my pocket, so as not to look at it, and started to see if I could get to my feet. I could stand, and that was all that mattered to me at that moment.
My next instinct was to see if anyone else had survived. I was about 20 ft or so from the van, which was flipped on to its roof, wheels spinning and smoking. The 1st person I saw was our drummer Ken. He came crawling out of the van and was covered in blood from his head down to his chest. His ear was nearly severed off and he had a massive wound to the top of his head. He looks up at me and says “I don’t think we’re going to make the gig in Cleveland”. I think that him saying that brought a tremendous feeling of focus and hope to me. This little moment of levity made me think that this may not be the end of our lives.
That was until I saw Eric wander around from the back of the van. He was walking but extremely banged up. He said to me ” John is over there, I think he might be dead “. At that point Police and EMT workers were on the scene and started attending to us. I’ll never forget locking eyes with a Police Officer who was a dead ringer for our friend Vaughn Lewis. In my dazed state I thought ” wow… did Vaughn come to save us? “
At that point medics instructed me that I must lay down. There was a bad accident and my friends and I were badly injured and to trust them to take care of us. We had been hit from behind. The truck crashed through our equipment trailer basically splitting it in half and driving over it. We jack knifed and then were hit from the side causing the van to flip and roll over 3 times. We then skid on the road on the van’s roof for a significant distance.
Lying on my back on the side of a stretch of road somewhere between NY state and Ohio, I stared into the clear blue morning sky wondering why the hell this happened, and how would it all turn out in the end.
The 10 year anniversary of this event is approaching fast. Although the past 10 years have brought a lot sadness and adversity to the members of Candiria, its not to say that there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of happiness in our lives outside of the band. Everyone involved in the accident survived. We lived to tell the tale and to get a second chance on life. Sure things may be very different than we ever imagined them and time and distance has come between all of the members. And as brave and hard as I have tried to maintain myself, I’d be lying if I said that this hasn’t haunted me ever since. But we survived and that’s all that matters.
10 years later and I’m still at it. Still making music, and still acting like a kid in search of adventure. How will I be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the accident? I’ll be playing a gig with my new band Star Killer. We are playing at Irving Plaza in New York City on Sept 8th 2012 with our friends Killcode. This is a room that I have played numerous times over the years with Candiria. And I’m excited to be playing such a premier venue right at the anniversary of such a significant event in my life.
At midnight I plan on having a toast in celebration of life, my family and friends, and the amazing band that was Candiria. Come and join me at the bar and partake in the celebration. All are welcome and encouraged to come out to this great show. If you live in NYC or the tri-state area, or plan on being there on Sept. 8th 2012, You can get a ticket in advance through this link: www.starkillerband.com/tickets
Thanks for reading,