Grace under fire: Terri Timpe kept her cool through a nightmare vacation, then a car crash
I appreciate the people in our midst who have developed a capacity for both resilience and forgiveness — making the most of setbacks, growing from failures and choosing to believe the best in other people when their mistakes or failures cause harm.
We would all move through life with greater joy by letting go of anger and choosing to pursue justice with grace and a sense of fairness.
Recently, I interviewed Terri Timpe, the business manager of Munson Engineers, to learn about her vacation from hell that started during the late December storm that closed Sea-Tac Airport and resulted in mass cancellations of flights.
And, she had quite the story to tell, starting with multiple canceled flights over a period of a week, an expensive rental house in Mazatlan that was ill equipped, and ending with Terri and her family forced to flee in a mad airport dash because of terrorist threats by a drug cartel.
Terri, a detail-oriented individual who has taught herself computer-assisted design and has, over 40 years, learned a wide range of other skills to keep projects on schedule for clients, compiled a thick packet detailing what she describes in drawn-out words as her “worst vacation ever.” She is still lobbying Alaska Airlines to make things right after she spent an additional $3,500 and 180,000 airline miles to get her and her mother to Mazatlan after multiple canceled flights.
But the aborted vacation was a cake-walk compared to what happened on Jan. 25, the day I was originally scheduled to interview her. As she was driving to work that morning, an inattentive courtesy driver for a local auto dealer ran a red light and smashed into her driver’s side door, totaling her car.
Terri was bruised and battered in the crash, but escaped serious injury. It could have been far worse. For starters, she had surgery on her neck for degenerative discs, and the cage that was used to stabilize it in all likelihood kept her from being paralyzed, according to her surgeon.
In addition, the brunt of the impact was absorbed by her titanium left hip and shoulder, which were deeply bruised but would likely have broken if she had not received those replacement parts.
Terri has a son with autism, and she’s been struggling to get a disability ruling from Social Security. An inches-thick file of his paperwork was in her purse and the crash scattered them all over the car. Immediately after the crash, a woman checked on Terri, called 911, and then painstakingly retrieved the contents of the file and other belongings. Terri would love to find out the woman’s name to thank her for that kindness.
It would be understandable for someone in Terri’s position to be angry with the driver of the courtesy vehicle. However, she imagines that witnessing her extrication from the vehicle and being loaded into an ambulance was a devastating experience for the young man.
Although she was unable to work for much of the next six weeks, Terri says she’s going to be fine physically and that insurance will pay for the lost income and medical expenses.
Shortly after the accident, she paid a visit to the owner of the car dealership that employed the driver of the other vehicle and encouraged him not to fire the young man. As a mom of five kids, she knows people make mistakes and deserve second chances. She asked the owner to help her acquire a comparable car, which he graciously did.
I respect and admire Terri Timpe’s approach to this difficult situation. As a person who can hold a grudge, I came away from the interview wanting to emulate how she chooses grace and forgiveness while being a strong advocate for justice and fairness. It’s a choice any of us could make.
Terri, who’s also a published author as well as a volunteer at Two Rivers Art Gallery, has chosen to move forward. She loves her work and the team of people at Munson Engineers. As of March 6, she was grateful to be back to work full time.
NOTE: A local initiative called Kindness Counts NCW 2023 seeks to foster compassion in our communities. Share your stories and read those of your neighbors at kindnesscountsncw.com