“I just imagined that this is how I was going to die.”
Brian Phan will never forget the moment the car he was riding in veered into oncoming traffic on Knight Street in East Vancouver, accelerating at speeds close to 100 kilometres an hour.
“Everything just felt so unreal. I know she never ever talked about trying to kill me or showed any signs of that. She just raised me with all her love ever since I was a kid,” Phan recalled.
On Jan. 29, the 18-year-old Gladstone Secondary grad and his mother were driving home after dinner. The pair was stopped at a red light when his mother turned to him and spoke in Vietnamese.
“She looked at me and said, ‘We win, we’re going to heaven,” Phan said.
Four vehicles were hit in the crash. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured, including Phan and his mother, who were saved when their sedan’s airbags deployed.
After the impact, Phan screamed for help through a smashed car window. While some bystanders rushed to his aid, at least one person hurled racial insults “about the fact we’re Asians and that we can’t drive,” according to Phan.
While he doesn’t fault people for reacting like that, he wants the public to understand that what happened wasn’t deliberate.
“Just be aware that when a car goes into a lane and goes speeding up on purpose, it wasn’t an accident or an error of being kind of Asian. It was someone who was mentally sick.”
Phan’s 45-year-old mother has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is receiving treatment. She could face criminal charges and that means Phan will no longer be able to live with her in the small apartment they shared. Days before his 19th birthday, he’s scrambling to find a pet-friendly rental, preferably unfurnished so he can keep the furniture that gives him some semblance of home.
“It just wouldn’t be the same. I would feel like I have to change my whole life because of something that wasn’t my fault and it just sucks,” Phan said.
Faced with mounting bills in the aftermath of the crash, Phan set up a GoFundMe page in an effort to get a hand up as he moves forward. He’s also working and focusing on his goals of going to culinary school or studying kinesiology, and training for Team Canada in Ultimate Frisbee – a sport he coaches and plays.
Although he knows the future will be challenging, Phan is grateful for a second chance at the life he almost lost.
“We shouldn’t really take life for granted,” he said.