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Last night, I could see in my head a mother, looking at pictures of her chubby-cheeked toddler, a girl full of smiles and pigtails. A girl like mine.
And the mother wondering: How could this happen?
On Saturday night, two senior girls from my husband’s tight-knit private school were driving and their car found a tree. The driver, one of my husband’s students, ended up in the hospital with broken bones. The passenger ended up in a funeral home.
Mr. V called me, heartbroken. How could he tell his class where their classmate was? How would he teach when she returned to school without her friend?
In an instant, I was transported back 10 years.
The circumstances were not exactly the same. There was no passenger. There was no alcohol. The driver was wearing her seatbelt, on her way to her job as a volunteer EMT. No one knew for sure what happened, but she crossed the yellow line, collided head-on with another car, and lost her life, just after her 18th birthday and almost the exact same time of year: it was April 29, 2000.
On April 30, 2000, I was sitting in my bedroom when my friends Hannah and Marianne called; I assumed it was another of many calls about the upcoming prom. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I remember shock. Crying to my mother. Her making me get dressed and leave the house.
Monday at school. Our class was a mere 120 people, and none of us could do anything except sit in the field behind our school, using hands to make white origami cranes. My Chinese teacher suggested this ancient custom helped the grievers. And it did.
I remember signing out of school one afternoon and spending the entire afternoon playing board games with my Jen. Because it was something to occupy our minds.
I remember the funeral, over a thousand people. I still can’t listen to “Tears in Heaven”–I have been known to violently turn off a radio if it dare come on.
So when I told Mr. V, “I know how hard it is,” I meant it. I grieve for all his students. For the dear parents of these two girls. I am sick over it.
Sweet Jesus, be near.