Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Day Our World Changed

March 19th has for years marked an anniversary that I would prefer not to have to remember. A passage of another year without...A yearly reminder of what may have been, what could have been, and what isn't. It is a day that will be remembered as the day our world changed forever!

It was March 19, 1993, I was living in Tennessee with my husband and three year old daughter. My parents and brother, (only sibling), were living in Louisiana where I grew up. I worked late that night, an unusually balmy, clammy feeling Friday in March. I had to close the store and had worked an extra long shift. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and I was tired beyond the normal. My head hurt, my body ached and I just felt an overshadowing of dread. As I drove from the parking lot of the business where I worked, my truck went dead on me, and would not restart. I was in the turn lane of the highway that ran through town. I looked behind me and the man that had closed the store with me that night, had pulled in behind me. We decided that he would push my truck back into the parking lot and I would leave it till morning and he would drive me home. I only lived a couple miles down that same highway.

When I entered the house, I could hear my husband on the phone.
"Here she is now, do you want to talk to her?" Andrew asked
I took the phone and my father's voice greeted me on the other end. We spoke for a few minutes and my tiredness grew stronger. I don't remember much of the conversation, but as we were speaking, I was suddenly griped with fear. I questioned him as to where my brother was at the moment.
"He and Brandy are in Pitkin."
Suddenly I wanted to scream, "Go now and get him!" I felt such an overwhelming need for him to go and get him right then. But I passed the feeling off as just being tired and hungry and a little agitated by the events of the evening.

After a little more conversation we said goodbye, and I proceeded to look for something to eat. My daughter was already in bed asleep and Andrew said he hadn't eaten supper yet either. So I agreed to get in the car and go up the highway to Subway and grab us a sandwich.

After going to bed that night, I was restless. I thought that perhaps it was due my being so tired that I couldn't get settled in to a good sleep.
My husband and I both woke several times in the night unable to find that deep, restful sleep we were seeking. I got up at some point around 1:00 or 2:00 and got something to drink, went to the bathroom and checked in on Lauren. The air was thick, and muggy. It was almost an oppressive feeling, like I was breathing in liquid. Or as thought something heavy or someone was sitting on my chest.

Finally about three or four o'clock, I feel into a deep sleep. So deep in fact, I barely rolled over at six when Andrew got up and left for a morning run. Somewhere around 6:30 or so, I heard a ringing in the distance. But I couldn't drag myself awake enough to realize that the phone was ringing. I don't know how many times it rang, but finally I jump up suddenly, realizing that it wasn't a dream. I went to our phone which was hanging in the hallway between our bedroom and the living room. When I answered it was the familiar voice of a friend who also lived in Louisiana. She was pregnant with her first child and had been having a few problems. I realized by her voice that something was definitely wrong. My mind immediately went to her baby.

"What's wrong?" I asked

"I don't know how to tell you this, but Daren and Brandy were in an accident..." she hesitated as I tried to understand her words. My mind was still thinking something was wrong with her baby and I couldn't figure out how Daren, my brother, and Brandy, our first cousin, played into this whole scenario.

"...Daren didn't make it." Just like that..."Daren didn't make it..."

Those words played over and over in my mind like a needle on a record player running over the same grove again and again...

Somewhere between the awake self and my sleeping self, I hoped this was a dream. I prayed out loud that this was not so...

"No, dear God No!" I felt my body slid down the wall under the phone. "No!" "No!"

"Let me talk to Andrew" I heard her voice come through the phone line.

"He isn't here." I replied through tears.

"Not there, where is he?"

"At the track, running?"

"He's not there." She said to someone in the room with her.

"Oh dear, if I had known, I shouldn't have told you, I should have asked for him..."

"I have to go, I've got to call someone..."

"Look, call me back in a few minutes, I wish I had known he wasn't there."

"I've gotta go..."

I hung up the phone and leaned against the wall feeling sick to my stomach, unable to catch my breath. I had to call someone. I had to get Andrew home. What could I do...

I called my mother-in-law, who lived a few miles away.

"I'll be right there."

I called 911. I explained to them what was happening and that I needed someone to get my husband.

The phone rang again and it was my friend from Louisiana again.
"Are you okay?"

"Yes. No! Yes. Mary is on her way over, and the police are going to find Andrew." "Tell me what happened." "Where, when, who... " I want to know everything you know."

Her husband who was with the military police at the base near where my parents lived was on duty that night and they drove to the scene to assist the state police. Her husband didn't know my brother, but knew there were two young men involved that went to the church where my friend and I grew up. When he got home that morning he told her about it and she called around and found out for sure who it was.

A man from a nearby town was driving at a high rate of speed going into a curve, lost control of his truck and fish-tailed his truck into the oncoming truck that my cousin Brandy was driving and my brother was a passenger in. It happened around midnight while they were on their way back to Brandy's house. They were a few miles from home when it happened.

The driver of the other truck, Garry Fox, fled the scene. They used dogs to try to track him. At the time of her call, he was still unknown and missing. She reassured me that they would find him and she would call me with updated information when she knew.

As I tried to process all of this information, I grew sick at my stomach and my head began to swim...everything went black. I heard a loud crash somewhere in the distance, then nothing.

I awoke to my three year old daughter standing at my head.
"Mommy, Mommy, wake up!"

I prayed, "Dear Lord, you know, I have never had to face anything like this before. I don't even have the tools with which to deal with something like this. I can't do it. I can't carry this...You have to help me. You have to give me strength to make it through this. I can't on my own...Please give me strength."

As I looked into my daughter's face, I thought of my parents and what they must be going through right at this moment. I knew that I had to get to them. I had to be strong for them. I knew that difficult times lie ahead for all of us.

I slowly stood and walked with her to the couch. I didn't want her to know what was going on. I had to wait until I could get a hold of myself and explain to her... how do you explain this to a three year old? Just then my Mother-in-law knocked on the door.

We sat in silence on the couch, Mary holding me and me holding Lauren for what seemed like an eternity. In truth, it was only a few minutes until Andrew raced in through the back door with a scared look on his face.

"What is it, what's wrong?" he asked as he looked from my face to his mother and back to my face.

"Daren." Mary mouthed his name so Lauren couldn't hear.

Andrew's face fell as he looked at me questioning, trying to read my expression.

I stood and took him into the bedroom and I calmly begin to explain to him. He sat on the bed with his face in his hands crying, "NO!"

I felt a calm like I had never felt before as I proceeded through the motions of packing and preparing things for our trip back to Louisiana. I know we had to get there as soon as possible. I dreaded what I would face when we arrived. As I started out the back door of our house, I looked around before closing the door, I wanted to remember things how they were then, because I knew that when I returned, nothing would ever be the same again...

To be continued....

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