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My Long Road Back: A Q&A With Jessi Lang

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 8/8/2014 Motor Trend Staff
Jessi Lang J Turn Special© Provided by MotorTrend Jessi Lang J Turn Special

The response to the episode of Motor Trend’s “J-Turn” in which Jessi Lang discusses her accident in Germany and her long – and still ongoing – recovery generated hundreds of comments and emails in support. There were some questions in there, too. Lang agreed to answer the most popular.

Jessi and Bjorn© Provided by MotorTrend Jessi and Bjorn

Why choose to share this story now? Many would just want to try to move on — and would probably tire of talking about it.


I’m sharing the story now because I’m finally healthy enough to do so. My mind was a mess from the meds until March, and I only began learning how to walk again in April.

As for why I’ve chosen to share the story: It happened. It wasn’t a fender bender or a minor incident. It was catastrophic and I’m forever changed. Not discussing it wasn’t an option for me. Furthermore, I have an on-camera job I love and viewers I adore— viewers who wanted to know why my show suddenly stopped airing a year ago. Viewers who sent me emails asking, “Where’s The J-Turn?” and telling me they missed me. They’ll never know how much those messages meant to me and how many times they arrived in my inbox when I needed them most.

I also hoped that my story could somehow help others. This experience made me feel very isolated and alone— as though no one could understand what I was going through, or conceptualize the way living in constant pain can chip away at your soul and your psyche. I wanted to share this, in part, to say to everyone who’s been there—and to everyone who’s there now— that I’m here, and I get it, and there’s no shame in talking about it. I need support, too, and in reaching out to others, I hoped they’d reach back out to me. I’d like to start a Trauma and Titanium Implant Support Group, in fact, which I say with a smile, but mean whole-heartedly.

You've come a long way, and still have a long road. How are Bjorn from ABT and the driver of the other car doing?

Bjorn sustained an injury— a lumbar vertebra fracture— but thankfully, he didn’t need to have surgery and was able to return to work in October. He’s doing well and, just last month, we had the chance to reunite, which was wonderful for both of us. That’s him with me in the photo.

The other driver was also injured, but it’s our understanding that he is alright. I didn’t mention either of their injuries in the video because they didn’t choose to publicly discuss the accident; I did, and they deserved to have their privacy protected. (Bjorn gave me permission to disclose in this Q&A his specific injury.)

Do you ever experience anger for the other driver? Are you involved in any legal action against him or her?

Yes, I’ve felt anger…lots of powerful, useless anger. But I try to lean on gratitude and compassion to move through it. I tell myself, “Your company flew you to Germany to do what you love most, and on day two, while driving a half-a-million-dollar supercar, something went terribly wrong. Your problems are privileges.”

When I feel anger toward the other driver, I try to relate to him. That’s why I say at the beginning of my video that, “We’re all only human, and reminding myself of that has been helping me get through this.” We all make mistakes; I’ve made hundreds. And I know he didn’t intentionally mean to cause an accident. Thinking of it that way helps.

I have not taken any legal action against him.

A few readers have commented that you may have been speeding illegally, or that you were not actually on the unrestricted autobahn. Talk about that a bit.

I was not driving recklessly and I did not break any laws. The other driver accepted responsibility for the accident.

Pre-accident, what was your favorite "J-Turn" moment?

I’ll never forget drifting Bentleys on ice in Finland, or flat-footing that Hennessey Camaro ZL1, or tackling a stock car’s Jerico dog box at Infineon Raceway. But racing at Daytona was one of the highlights of my life. The high banks felt like home in a way that made me question where I lived, and I will never forget that feeling.

What's still on your automotive bucket list?

My bucket list is always growing. I want to learn how to build engines, and become adept at wrenching. I want to race at Daytona again, and I want to compete in a rally. I want to drive an amphibious vehicle and man a monster truck. I want to challenge my Motor Trend colleagues to a drifting competition and a road course race. I want to meet Michèle Mouton and I want to drive with her. I could go on for a while here…

Anything else you'd like to say?

I’ve been criticized for not thanking the doctors or medical personnel who helped me throughout these months, but when I first began putting this video together, I had an endless list: I wanted to thank ABT for building an indestructible roll cage, and the woman who picked me up and carried me away from the car; I wanted to thank every German surgeon who treated me, every nurse who answered my call button, and my incredible hospital roommate who has become my lifelong friend.

I wanted to thank the US trauma surgeons, and the neurologists, and the orthopedic surgeons, and the vascular surgeons, and the physical therapists, and the speech pathologists, and all the nurses. I wanted to thank every driving school I’ve ever attended, every instructor from whom I’ve learned, and every person who was there for me throughout this ordeal— especially my mom and stepdad. The list was long and just when I would think it was complete, I’d remember another person whose name needed mentioning. As I began obsessing about it, some of these individuals themselves reminded me that I thank them all the time, as it should be done: in person, face to face, and with sincerity.


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