A 6-year-old Eric Miller heard the ear-piercing screech of a car's tires. Then a loud "boom!"
He then turned to see his twin brother, Jeff, "skidding" across a San Antonio, Texas, street.
Jeff, now, 17, recalled how that innocent aluminum can-collectingexpedition had hurled him into a weeklong coma and turned into a nightmare for his brother and family.
"I saw the car briefly in the distance, then I didn't remember anything for a week," said Jeff.
"My parents just kept telling me to pray for him, but I don't think I really comprehended that he could die," said Eric, the youngest of the identical twins by 18 minutes. "I'm just thankful today that he wasable to make it through it. I remember being lonely because we were always doing things together."
They still are.
Today, as pole vaulters at Meade High, they represent the county's -- and perhaps thestate's -- best one-two punch.
In Saturday's 29th annual NationalGuard indoor track meet, Jeff and Eric were first and third, respectively, to lead Meade to a runner-up finish behind Eleanor Roosevelt.
Jeff, who won the meet for the second straight year, cleared 14 feet -- a 1-foot improvement over last year -- and Eric went over at 13-6.
Jeff's effort matched the personal best of their father, Randy, 42, who was a pole vaulter at Ohio State University. Jeff's best is14-4 so far this season.
"They're both blessed," said their father, Maj. Randy Miller, who still competes every spring in the Maryland State Games. "Over the years, I've been stationed in Texas, Hawaii, St. Louis and South Carolina. But I've been here since 1987, so it's been a blessing for them to start and finish high school in one location."
Meade coach Jay Cuthbert called Miller, a three-time champion in the 40-45 age group, his sons' chief technical adviser.
"In fact," said Cuthbert. "He does all of the technical work. He is the one who's always reviewing their vaulting films."
"Dad's been a goodcoach," said Jeff. "He can watch us and critique us. And it's nice to have a coach at home."
Naturally, Eric, who nearly developed cerebral palsy at birth, and Jeff, after his brush with death, share much more than just their handsome looks, pole-vaulting abilities and unsettling childhood experiences.
Each is an "A" student at Meade High. Eric, who carries a 3.95 average, is ranked No. 1 in his class, and Jeff, a 3.75 average, is No. 5. Eric scored 1470 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test, and Jeff, 1430.
"Our extracurricular activities are basically the same. We're both senators in the student government,"said Eric, who gave up wrestling as a freshman to vault with his brother. "Other than the fact that he plays the saxophone and I play theclarinet, that's about the only difference."
In addition, said Eric, they each have developed a faith having learned from their parents "that no matter what, everything's going to be OK."
That acceptance may come in handy for the twins should Miller be called to duty in the Persian Gulf. He is currently an associate administrator at Fort Meade's Kimbrough Army Hospital.
"We've never dreaded it, and I'm sure we'd accept it," said Eric. "We've always known that if he got called to duty, he'd go, but it might be a strain on the family. Itwould be hard to pole vault without Dad there."
"Faith is something my wife (Judy) and I have had to have since they were babies. We've tried to teach it to our kids," added Miller, who also has an 8-year-old daughter, Julie.
Although the twins have some of the country's best colleges after them for academics as well as their athletic abilities, they have narrowed their choices down to the University of Miami, Cedarville (Ohio) College and Geneva (Pa.) College.
"If I have to leave," said Miller, "I know that they're on the right track, and I'm confident that they're pointed in the right direction."
If Saturday's meet was any indication, the Miller brothers can only go higher. They each finished ahead of Old Mill's defending indoor statechampion Mike Dibella, who finished fourth.
"As we've seen them the last four years, Jeff's been the more aggressive vaulter, and Eric's been the more technical," said Cuthbert. "Jeff wants to win the state title this year."
Yet, as the slender, dark-haired brothers lined up for their runs at the vaulting pit Saturday, their contrastingstyles -- not to mention their looks -- are barely distinguishable by a first-time viewer.
"That's Eric in the blue tights," offered Meade assistant coach Darrell Doster. "After working with them a few years, you can tell there are physical differences."
Jeff said, "I'm a sure I'm a little bit stronger. I took a weight-training course. We both went to pole-vault camp this summer, but my runs are probablysmoother."
Eric admits being a step slower.
"Physically, he can run faster," said Eric. "And he's probably quicker in the mechanics, as he rocks back and shoots over the bar. That's what gives him theedge right now."