Many of you have asked, and I have been thinking it is time to write about one of the most devastating moments in my life. It is, after all these years, still the most painful time in my life, and if I allow myself to dwell too much on it, I will get lost in the past. So, I will try to write about it now and then put it away for perhaps another 20 years.
In 1985 I was married to my ex-husband, Bob, and we had just finished building a small house in southern New Hampshire. We did everything in it from the design, framing, insulation, wall boarding, painting, etc. It was quite an accomplishment.
We had two daughters, Amanda age 8 and Katie age 6. Katie had just graduated from Kindergarten at the end of May, so she was already out of school, while Amanda was still in classes for another few days.
We had planned a huge house-warming party to show off our new home to family and friends for the 15th of June. The weather was good and so we thought it was all coming together.
On the 13th of June, the electric company came and did the final hook up for our water heater! Finally hot water. The workman suggested I wait for an hour or so before using the hot water. Great, I thought, I’ll go out and do errands while I wait for my first hot bath in our new home.
Katie and I dressed in our work clothes, got our 4-month-old puppy Sheba, and climbed into my 1979 Ford Fiesta car. It was a beautiful, warm sunny June day, with such a bright blue sky and not one cloud. We stopped at the bank, and we stopped at the hot tub shop to make the final arrangements for the delivery of our new tub. I was happy and I felt carefree.
Katie and I climbed into the car and headed to another store to get her and her sister new bathing suits. Both the girls had grown over the winter and their swimsuits no longer fit them.
As I started the car, I looked over at Katie and smiled. She had buckled her seat belt and locked her door. Just as I was getting ready to move the car she looked at me and said, “Mom, put your seat belt on too.” Little Minx! So I dutifully put mine on and off we went.
As we drove we listened to the radio and we talked. Out of the blue, Katie said, “I love you so much Mommy!” and I replied, “I love you too, Katie!”
Less than a mile from our intended destination, the traffic light turned red. I shifted out of gear and slowly came to a stop.
That is all I remember.
Behind me, an impaired (stoned) man was driving a 5 ton boxed van truck loaded with windows. He never put on his brakes, apparently never saw us or the red light and literally drove over the top of my car, crushing Katie and I in it. Sheba, who was in the back seat, had jumped free of the car when the windows imploded. My car, with the truck on top of it, was pushed over 190 feet across a four-lane road before hitting a curb and stopping.
A crane operator, who was working less than a 1/2 a mile away, saw the accident and knew that the only way to get the truck off the little car was for him to get his crane over to us. He immediately started over.
At the next stop light, was an off-duty ambulance with 2 paramedics. They witnessed the accident and immediately called it in while turning on their lights and rushing to the scene.
The police arrive almost immediately and the fight started to free Kate and me from the car.
The paramedics got oxygen on me. I was still unconscious and unresponsive to them. They could not reach Katie, but they could see her shoes.
Someone grabbed the dog and after checking her tags, brought her to our Vet. I never knew who did this, but I was always grateful.
Thirty minutes after the accident the crane lifted the truck off the car. The fire-fighters used the jaws of life and peeled back the roof of the car.
This is when I woke up. It was very confusing. I remember looking up and seeing the large tire of a truck hanging over my head. I remember the kindness of the paramedic as he was stabilizing my neck and back. But it was all quite surreal.
While they stabilized me in the car, the other paramedic had gotten Katie out. She was gone. He struggled, using all his talents to revive this beautiful little child. I did not see her there. They got her breathing again, and she was taken to the hospital.
I was removed from the car and loaded into the second ambulance and I only vaguely remember this. The paramedic was named Dave, and I recall him apologizing before he cut away my clothes. I didn’t care. I just wanted to know if Katie was okay.
I’d been asking that since I came to and no one would tell me anything other than she was on her way to the hospital.
I remember being in the Emergency Room and having a CAT Scan, and not being aware of anything but my longing to be with Katie and the nurses and doctors telling me that I had to stay put.
Katie’s Pediatrician came in. Don’t ask me how long a time I was there waiting. He said that they were doing all sorts of scans on her, but that they’d had to intubate her and put her on a respirator. He said it did not look good, but that she was young and healthy.
No one could find my ex-husband at first so they called a friend of mine who seemed to instantly appear.
All during this, my sense of time was gone. Hours seemed like seconds and then time would just stand still.
My friend, Fern, had also been Katie’s Kindergarten teacher. Katie loved her. I told Fern to go and talk to Katie and tell her to wake up. More than anything, I wanted Katie to just open her eyes.
My ex-husband arrived, stayed with me for a moment and then he went off to see Katie. I have never seen a man more destroyed than he was when he returned to see me again.
We were both taken to Intensive Care that first night, while they evaluated our tests. They knew I had sustained a head injury, but at that time they did not know how severe. Katie was still in a coma and was unresponsive.
My sister and brother-in-law arrived and stayed the night keeping a vigil at my bedside and Kate’s. During the night I was allowed to see her, and they took me in by wheelchair. I recall nothing but seeing her small body in the bed with the machine breathing for her. I held her hand and I told her how much I loved her and that she should come back to us.
This was something she never did.
She was flown to Boston to Tufts New England Medical Center, in the hopes they could perform a miracle for her. But none came. I signed myself out of the hospital in New Hampshire, with a body that quite literally ached from the brutality of the accident, and headed to Tufts. I spent day and night there with her and even managed to give her one last sponge bath. Then I sat holding her for hours in my lap. On the 19th of June, Katie passed away. She was 6 1/2 years old.