It was a beautiful afternoon. It was October 23, 1986 and I was no more than sixteen and one half. I was a Junior in High School with a shiny new license and lucky enough to have the use of my mom's old station wagon. I played field hockey, and the team would practice every afternoon at the Middle School, which was a short drive from the High School. The daily ritual was to pile in the wagon and I would drive to practice. It was a beautiful afternoon.
This was October 23rd. A date that forever lives in my memory as one of the worst days of my life. A day that haunts me still, even 26 years later. I remember every second. Every. Second.
11 girls piled into my car that day. How was I to know what would happen? That I was driving faster than I probably should have. That in my inexperience I swerved around a corner too suddenly and that the car would fishtail. That in a split second I would hit two trees and end up on a front lawn just inches from someones house. I can hear screaming and then silence. I was in shock. I was not hurt. The others were not so lucky.
I don't think you understand the impact something like this has on your psyche. Even now, I can picture the car; twisted metal, smoke, shattered glass, flat tires, clothing strewn about. A body pinned underneath, blood, dirt and deafening silence.
God was watching us that day as no one was killed. The injuries were many and although physically I was not hurt, I still carry this burden. Like it was yesterday.
I learned many lessons from this event. My mother wrote me a note that night and I still keep in a jewelry box in my bedroom. It spoke of love and family. She said at times like these "the ones you can trust are your family" and that I need to "be prepared" for what may come of this. This confused me. I was 16 and I got into a car accident. What possibly could she be talking about?
She was talking about the days and weeks that followed. The police questioning, the criminal charges, the criminal lawyer I had to retain. The hate mail I and my family received from sick cowards. The two page, full-spread pictorial of the accident in the local paper. The questions being asked to all the rode with me that day: "Did she have any enemies in the car? and "was she drinking?" I was 16 and had no clue... No clue that a car accident would turn into this nightmare. That it was seen as an opportunity for many to show cruelty and hatred. That friends I thought would show support wouldn't. I was 16 and had no clue what the real world was like. My mother knew and as she so eloquently warned me in that letter; telling me to sleep in peace and that she loved me.
Life has a funny way of showing even a young girl the hard realities that your life can change in an instant. 26 years later I remain forever changed. My injuries have not healed.
Today is October 23.