People Share Their Lucky "One Second Later and I Was Done For" Stories
Life is precious, but many of us get caught up in our day-to-day routines and forget to step back and truly appreciate what we have. It’s far too easy to overlook how quickly things could change — for the worse.
One of the few times that we do remember not to take things for granted? After a near-death experience. If you’ve ever had a brush with death, you know how harrowing it can be. And if you don't? Just take it from the following people, who share stories about their scariest “one second later and I would've died” moments.
Avoiding the Pane
Outside of my college dorm, there was this “stoop” at the bottom of my 18-story-tall building. I was out there sitting on the steps and I got up for no reason. As soon as I got under the building, a huge sheet of glass fell right where I was sitting. Some idiots were messing around on the 11th floor and knocked a giant window pane out of its mooring.
A Missed Sign
I was walking into a Miller’s Outpost and the ‘M’ from the sign above the store fell down and hit me on the shoulder. It was a big glass sign. One moment sooner and it would have hit my head. Because it drew blood, the store offered to give me any item in the store that wanted so that I wouldn’t sue. I chose an awful red cardigan. I was 16 and dumb.
Quick Drop Down
My friend and I were taking an elevator down to the cafeteria in our dorm in college. For some reason, we were arguing about something when the doors opened, and we ended up hanging back for a second. Then, the elevator dropped two floors with the doors open. I still hate getting in and out of elevators to this day and I do a weird “running start” every time.
Saved by the Phone
I passed out at work and was sent to the hospital. They diagnosed a bleed on the brain and eventually decided they needed to drill a hole in my skull to drain the fluid. Just as they were about to put me under, the phone rang. It was the Head of Neurology. I actually had a burst aneurysm. According to my doctor, I would have probably died if they had started the surgery.
When I was in junior high, I was carpooling with another kid and her mom. For some reason I cannot fathom, she decided to race a transit train hoping to get across the tracks before the train stopped traffic. She gunned the car. I was in the back seat screaming, “NO.” She hit the train. Because I was in the back seat, I was injured the least. I had a pointy piece of metal pierce through my jeans. Had she been a second faster, the train would have hit us broadside and killed us all.
Against Nurse’s Orders
When I was in middle school, I called my mom on my cellphone during my lunch break because my head hurt so badly I couldn’t move. The nurse came and brought me to the office for a checkup while I waited for my mom. The nurse told my mom I had no fever, and that she should take me home and put me to bed so I could just rest.
My mom watched me get into the truck and decided last minute that maybe we should go to the hospital to be safe. By the time we reached the hospital, my temperature was at 104 and I was incapacitated. I had meningitis. If we went home and she put me to bed as the nurse suggested, I probably would have never woken up.
A Helpful Hangover
I had a bad hangover and was kind of jittery, which in turn made me extra watchful. I was driving home and when the light turned green, I started to go. All of a sudden, a car going about 45 mph in crowded city traffic gave no care and went right through the red light. I slammed on the brakes and felt my anti-lock brakes engage for the first time in I don’t know how long.
The guy missed me by inches. He didn’t even slow down. Had I not been hungover, I doubt I would have given the cross traffic a second look to see him barreling toward me. He likely would have T-boned me right in the driver’s door. For the longest time after that, I’ve had a hard time stepping into a car, even just as a passenger.
Falling Rain and Trees
My dad and I were driving down the road after some heavy rainfall in Vermont. He was driving, and I was fiddling with the radio. All of a sudden, I heard a very loud CRACK, and before I could ask my dad what it was, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. An entire tree was falling onto the road. Due to the heavy rainfall, the dirt was too wet to keep some trees in place.
My dad stood on his brake, cartoon style, and we slid nearly right into the tree. I heard a pop before we fully stopped, and when we lurched back to a full halt, we were both breathing hard. My dad got out to check the damage, and the pop I heard was a branch hitting a headlight. It was the first time I’d ever seen my dad call 911. It was so scary. It could have been the end of us if he didn’t stop to chat with the waitress after we left the restaurant to go home.
Swimming With Alligators
When I was 5 or 6 years old, my family and I were on holidays in Australia. My mother took me to a beach that is known for being safe, thanks to a net apparatus that doesn’t let the sharks in. When we arrived, the beach was empty which was kind of strange, but we continued on. My mother even swam from one point to another. After that, as we were going to the car, we were approached by the beach authority. They told us to not enter the beach because a family of alligators had entered the water and it was really dangerous.
An Enlightening Situation
I once left a lighter near a fire pit by mistake. I had been sitting near it roasting marshmallows. I had to go inside to grab some chocolate and when I came back out, just as I was walking back to the fire pit, the lighter exploded. If I hadn’t craved chocolate at that very moment, I very well could have been lit up like the Fourth of July.
A Missed Moose
I was about 6 or 7 years old when my dad and I were driving to his parents summer cabin. Suddenly, a huge moose ran from the forest, from our right, across the road. I mean, there’s no such thing as a small moose, let’s get that straight. But this one was out-of-this-world huge. We avoided hitting it by literally just a second.
It was so close that I’m sure we would’ve hit it if either we or the moose gained a second somewhere. We would’ve been dead for sure. Hitting a moose with a car is almost surely a death sentence anyway, but that thing was just so large that there would’ve been no chance. Always pay attention to animal crossing signs by the side of the road.
Dodging Feral Dog Fights
I did some volunteering abroad in a place that had a ton of feral street dogs. Usually, they minded their own business and were easily scared away (I tended to carry a piece of rebar in my backpack for this purpose), but occasionally they would gang up and maul people; especially kids and old people. One night, I got woken up by the sound of a bunch of them barking and howling. I wouldn’t have minded, except I also heard the sound of a woman screaming.
I ran out into the street to check it out, turned a corner and saw the biggest pack of them I’d ever seen—like, 30 dogs—all circling around this lady. I started yelling and throwing rocks, thinking they’d scatter… which is when the whole pack immediately turned their attention towards me. They were coming at me with their teeth bared and their ears back. I remember being really intensely aware, thinking: “Okay, I’m going to die right now…”
It was at that moment that a dude in a rickshaw came tearing down the road, flashing his lights and honking. This made the dogs bolt. The driver saved my life, or at the very least prevented a wicked bad mauling. It was a really great affirmation about how most people will do what they can to help you when you need it.
Swimming Through a Blackout
I was swimming with my dad and my younger brother in the lake. We had one of those decent sized blow-up rafts that we brought out to play around on. I thought it would be cool to swim underneath the raft and surface on the other side. Well, the third time I tried this, my little brother jumped into the raft and his body slammed into my head while I was swimming underneath, completely disorienting me.
I remember inhaling tons of water and trying to figure out which way was up. Every time I tried surfacing, I’d hit the bottom of the raft and become disoriented again. I could feel myself starting to black out before I pulled myself up around the side of the raft. No one even knew anything was wrong until I started heaving up water and coughing.
Watch Your Back
I used to work on a farm for a doctor that had antelopes on the property and one of my jobs was to feed them. My third day on the job was my first time actually doing it since all of my coworkers did it before. I went out there with the feed and started to pour it out so that they could eat when all of a sudden, my supervisor shouted from the other side of the fence not to turn my back to the male antelope.
I couldn’t hear him, so the first thing I did was turn my back on the male antelope to ask my supervisor what he said. Almost immediately, I’d realized what I had done and turned back around to see the antelope about to skewer me. I jumped out of the way and he ripped the shirt off of my back. Luckily, that’s all that I lost that day.
Leaving It to Chance
I was with a friend having a beer in a bar on the Koh San Road in Bangkok, Thailand. It was the last week of my bumming around the world and we had a decision to make. Do we go home for Christmas or spend it on the beach in Phuket? Neither of us had been to Phuket and we thought it would be an awesome end to our 18-month adventure.
On the other hand, Christmas at home with the family was also appealing. So we flipped a coin and went home to the UK. Flipping that coin a second earlier or later could have sent us into the path of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. We most certainly would have found ourselves in trouble and our Christmas could have easily been ruined if we had stayed.
A Dangerous Cocktail
I don’t know if I would’ve died, but when I was very small, I woke up in the middle of the night with a feeling like our dog was missing. I woke up everyone in the house and we went looking for the dog. Somehow, we were all outside when a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the neighbor’s house and their house exploded. The fire spread to my room and my sister’s.
If I hadn’t had everyone frantically searching for the dog, who knows what would’ve happened. The dog must have known something was up too because she had gotten out of the house and was hiding under a porch across the street. Sometimes, following your gut instinct could save your life. Never underestimate the power of your gut instinct.
The Hitchhiker’s Hail Mary
I was traveling Vietnam on a motorbike when one day, a boy aged around 16 asked if he could hitchhike on my bike with me to the next city, which was around 100 km. I told him sure, and around halfway there, I suddenly just fell asleep as I was driving along a mountain road. I was shaken awake by the boy on my bike literally right as I was about to drive off the edge of the road and managed to swerve back on.
Had I not have let him hitch a ride and had he not realized I’d passed out when he did, we would have both been dead. This was also the only day of the trip when someone asked to travel a long distance on my bike with me.
A Sudden Sharp Bend
I was driving on a country road at night with a friend who just got his license. He was doing 80 km/h when all the lights died. It was nearly pitch black on the road. He slammed on the brakes and the car stopped. The lights also came back on and we were greeted with a “sharp bend” sign and a sheer cliff 50 meters further on down the road with a 30-meter drop off into the ocean. That was scary and a tense ride home.
An Electric Mistake
My boyfriend, myself and a friend of ours were late night swimming. Another friend almost knocked an industrial flood light into the pool while we were in there and he caught it by the cord at the last minute. The idea of that particular guy, the class klutz, ending a human life was funny enough to make the experience less scary, but still. We almost freaking died! Wow.
Caught in the Rip Tide
I was caught in a riptide in the Caribbean. All my friends were on shore. I was waving back to shore to try and signal for help and my friends were waving back. I was paddling so hard against the current, just panicking. I could feel my body giving up with exhaustion. The danger was that I had never heard of a riptide before or how to deal with it.
The beach was also littered with no swimming signs, but a local guide said it was fine. Thankfully, one of my friends decided to play catch waist high in the sea with another friend and got close enough to hear me struggle. He told me to swim sideways, but I was seconds away from giving up. When I finally got to shore, I collapsed from exhaustion and lay on the sand thanking my lucky stars.
Garage Door Disaster
I was about four years old when I was playing a game of “slide under before the garage door closes.” At one point, I got stuck. This was before the safety features of these days. As I was stuck there with the door so heavy trying to crush my bones into dust, I knew I was about to die. The door was too relentless to even allow me to make noises. Luckily, a postal worker spotted me. She was able to alert the adults inside the house about me being trapped.
A Declining Turn of Events
I have had numerous bad experiences with bikes, but the near-death experience really takes the cake. It was my dad, my brother and me on a trail. We were riding downhill towards a sharp right turn. I was in front going fast and by the time I realized the degree of the turn, it was too late. I did my best to slow down but at this point, I was going about 30 to 35 mph. Somehow, I managed to hit a tree right in the center when I made the turn. If I was a few inches off to the left or right, I would have fallen down a cliff.
Close Call Cutting Wood
I was cutting wood with my dad, and both of us were getting really into the work rhythm. He was cutting the tree with the chainsaw, while I was taking the logs he cut and putting them into the wood splitter. I went to grab a log that was a little too close to him and he swung around to tell me something. I ended up getting a nic across my back. I didn’t even need stitches, just lots of those big bandaids. I was about 14 at the time and I think back now… A second sooner or a second later, and my body or my head could have been cut off. Now I just have a fading scar across my shoulder blades.
A Shocking Situation
I came home from a late night run. My eyes were super itchy and almost swollen shut, but I had no idea what it was. I hopped into bed thinking, “I’ll sleep it off, she’ll be right.” I got up 10 minutes later to ask my mom what she thought and she said she had never seen it before. She thought that maybe we should go to the hospital to see what they say.
We wandered up to the counter to let them know why we were there. The nurse took one look at me, jumped out of her seat, ran out the door to grab me and pull me into the emergency room. Turns out, I was deep in anaphylactic shock and needed three adrenaline shots to get through it. If I had just gone to sleep because “she’ll be right,” my airway would’ve closed and I would’ve suffocated to death.
Passing the Paris Attacks
I was planning to go to Paris with my friends. We lived in the Netherlands at the time and planned to take the afternoon bus so we could be there for dinner. But then we realized, if we took the afternoon bus, we would have to skip a class, so we decided to take the next available bus. Later that evening, the Paris attacks happened. The restaurant we planned to have dinner at was within the affected area. We were “trapped” as the country went into lockdown for a few days, but at least we didn’t get ourselves hurt or something.
Just in the Brick of Time
As I was walking down the street, a builder working on the fourth floor of a house accidentally dropped a brick over the edge of his scaffolding. It landed about 18 inches from me. If he’d been near me in the 60 seconds following, I’d almost certainly have been hit with it, and in the weeks that followed that concerned me more than the incident itself.
Safe on the Shoulder
About 30 years ago, my family and I were driving up to Jasper, Alberta in the winter. There was a slow car in front of us, and an impatient driver behind us clearly wanted to pass. Eventually, the guy behind us attempted the pass, but on a blind corner—he ended up hitting a logging truck head-on. The slow car in front of us was also hit, but my dad took a leap of faith and jerked the car to put us in the shoulder and not in the collision.
This was way before mobile phones or anything like that. I remember my dad and my older brother getting out and going over the other cars to talk with the truck driver. There was this indescribable moment of total silence, freezing cold, and disbelief until the authorities came (which was quite a bit later). I remember sitting in the backseat with my younger brothers wondering what the heck just happened.
Close Call Over Carbs
There was a market happening in my town and my family and I decided to go. I had just bought this lovely olive and red onion bread loaf and was walking back over to my family. I stood there, proudly holding my bread and I felt something hard glide down me at a huge speed before crashing onto the floor. It was a huge chunk of scaffolding from the building behind me. There was this really unnerving silence afterward as so many people were looking. I was totally stunned. Driving home, I saw for the first time my dad tearing up. Really scary. Good bread though.
A Frightening Ride
I was in the line for the Smiler at Alton Towers the day it crashed. If I had decided to go to the toilet after the ride instead of before it, I would have ended up seriously injured or dead. I haven’t gone on a rollercoaster since that day.
Clipped at the Crosswalk
I was walking through a crosswalk during the walk light and everything. A guy in a turning lane decided he was just going to gun it. His side view mirror actually hit my hip. One more step and he would have nailed me straight on.