I remember my mom telling me about three kids in her senior class who were killed in a car accident right around graduation. I think they were hit by a train. When I was a freshman, a senior at my high school (Lake Oswego High School) was killed in a motorcycle accident. Last year, my friend Kitty’s daughter had a friend who died texting and driving. Too often across town, across the state, across the country; the news covers stories of teens who have died in car accidents.
On a Friday night in 1982, my BFF Trish and I dropped off my parents at a dinner less than a mile and a half away from home. We were driving back to my house for an evening of frozen pizza and movies on VHS. The streets were slick from the typical Oregon rain. I took a turn too fast and the giant O’Connor family station wagon spun around 360 degrees a couple of times. As luck would have it, there were no other cars on the road. We stopped and Trish and I looked at each other wide-eyed. Whoa! I was shaking a bit and carefully drove the rest of the way home.
Why would I do that? Why would I drive too fast around a sharp turn on wet streets in the dark? Because I was 17 and it was fun! I well remember the excitement and liberation of driving around with my friends in the car, no adults telling me to be careful, slow down, put on your signal. I am in charge of this hunk of steel and it is like driving a giant roller coaster car! Being a teenager can be a heady, exhilarating time; a time to believe you are indestructible. Time is on your side. Sadly we all have stories, we all know being young doesn’t guarantee longevity.
I was in Denver this past weekend visiting my sister. Saturday morning Katie told me, “Kathy posted on Facebook to pray for the LO girls in the car accident.” Um, what? My girls go to Lake Oswego High School. I did assume if one of them was in an accident, I would have received a call. I texted my girls and heard back from Annie. Sure enough, three of her friends were in a car, most likely driving one of them home after the football game. Annie’s friend was driving too fast around a curve; a dangerous curve that has been a great one to take too fast since I was a teenager. The driver couldn’t control the car on the curve and went into the oncoming lane and hit another SUV head on.
In the blessings department, the people in the other car were not hurt. One of the girls was taken to the hospital and released. The driver had to be cut out of the car and remains in the hospital in fair condition.
The third girl is in the hospital in critical condition. I know this girl’s name well because she was one of the first to welcome Annie to LOHS when Annie was the new kid at school freshman year. This girl is on the dance team, she is actually as nice as she appears to be, well-loved by her family, friends and students, teachers, neighbors, etc. She is one of the good kids. The future is bright, it is blinding with possibility.
Today, she is in a medically-induced coma to help control the swelling in her brain. This is crunch time. Pray hard. If you don’t pray, just think good thoughts. She has pelvic surgery today, I’m guessing because they can’t put it off. She’s 17, she’s just a baby. I don’t know her family but I have cried or felt like crying since I heard the news. I think, “what if Annie had gotten a ride in that car Friday night?” I think of the terror of realizing the car was going to crash. I think of that phone call. Oh God, that phone call. And now her parents sit at the hospital praying the doctors can fix their girl.
And I, like millions of other parents, will continue to teach my child to drive. I will make her crazy with all my instruction and warnings. I will pray that I can convince her to be careful. Annie’s friends’ only crimes were being young and reckless because that is what the young are.
There is a Facebook page for updates which now has more than 1,000 followers. The family asks for prayers and good vibes, eat an Oreo and say nice things and mean them. I pray that a lesson can be learned here without any fatalities. I know we aren’t the only community to go through this but we need all of your prayers to who/whatever you pray to.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”