Monday, December 20, 2004

Angels watching over us




I have had some questions regarding the photograph section of my blog. In particular, the photographs of the crosses.

Their names were Darla, Jim, Krista, Aissa and Jimmy - the only surviving member of his family. The car they died in was a small Geo Metro with little protection for their fragile lives.

I grew up in a small Indiana town. In the beginning, our family wasn't quite as distant as it is now. There were eight children on my mother's side. Mom's oldest sister, Diana, had five children. Darla was the third youngest of the five. When I was young, we were together for a short time until my Aunt Diana moved her family out to California for just over a decade. During that time, I'd seen Darla a few times. Once, she'd run away and come back to Indiana.

Darla was beautiful. In fact, she reminded me of my mother. She was very no-nonsense, but a bit on the wild side - which I admired. When Darla and her younger sister Jere moved back to the Midwest, I was ecstatic. At this point, the family was scattered and in constant battles with one another. It would be nice to have some family around.

At first, it was like we were sisters. I would go to their place and we'd laugh, joke, make dinner and try on clothes. We talked about family, old times, childhood memories and our children played together.

Krista and Aissa (7 and 5 years old,respectively) called me "Aunt Shannie" - the first who were to do so. They would run up to me, telling me all about this toy or that doll... But the favorite activity was to play "beauty shop". The girls love my hair and would spend long periods of time playing with it, styling it, and generally filling it with just about every hair accessory they could get their hands on. Krista was very much the "princess" type and loved to play the part. Aissa was the tomboy, all risk and roughness.

Jimmy was 10 at the time, and my oldest (who was then about 6) and my second child (3) looked up to him. They would wrestle, trash the playroom and get into trouble outside with neighbors. The usual "boy things". It was a noisy, crazy love-filled chaotic mess. It was great fun while it lasted.

Then there were some stupid arguments over things that never happened, but were never clarified. One of those situations in which you later wish you'd laid it out on the table while you'd still had the chance.

Darla and I didn't speak for a couple of months. During that time, she decided to reconcile with her husband. She'd left him because of abusive behavior and control issues. None of us really thought it was a good idea. Within a couple of months, he'd started again. Jim was in the Army, and they didn't have much to live on. He'd gotten a safe and locked up the foodstamps, so that Darla had no means by which to go out on her own, even to shop for groceries. She'd called in early fall, telling the family that she'd planned to move back here again in March.

It was in October of 1998 when Darla, her children and her husband were driving up Fort Irwin Road in the southern California high desert. The girls and Jimmy were in the back seat. Darla was driving, with Jim in the passenger seat. A car - driven by two teenage girls who had stolen it - was coming fast in their direction and tried to pass (into Darla's lane) a white van ahead of them. Darla only had time to see the car coming at them and to swerve to her right. Unfortunately, the other car swerved in the same direction.

The rest of what I know comes from Jimmy, who was conscious the entire time. Darla saw the car coming and reached out her arm protectively to her husband, gasping "Oh, God, Jim!" They were her last words. The cars collided, Darla's driver side to the other car's passenger. Both cars flipped several times and Darla's landed upside-down. The people in the white van pulled over and called paramedics. They then enlisted help of other passers-by and turned Darla's car back over.

Darla died in a condition called "mallow". There was essentially nothing but skin intact from the neck down. Everything was crushed. Jim suffered massive head and chest injuries and was unconscious. Krista and Aissa also died on impact. One of my lovely girls had the imprints of Darla's seat in her face. Jimmy was crushed from the waist down.

It took a very long time - I believe it was about 45 minutes - for the medical transport helicopter to arrive. During that time, Jimmy had tried to wake his little sister, saying "Wake up! It's ok, you can wake up now, we're all dead." He didn't realize he had survived until a man in the helicopter told him, "It's ok, buddy, you're going to be ok."

Jim survived for two days in the hospital. Personnel there said that if he'd only had 30 percent of the injuries he'd suffered, he still would have died. Jimmy was told he might not walk and spent quite a long time in a wheelchair after that. He did end up walking, but is understandably a ghost of the child he was. He lost everything he knew in a split second.

I found out while at work. I had been teaching in a local childcare and received a phone call from Angela, Darla's oldest sister. She told me that Darla had died in an accident, and that the girls were with her and had died as well. I was confused, thinking that she'd meant our Aunt Darla. Angie clarified that no, it was our Darla. Her sister. All I remember is collapsing to the floor and saying over and over, "My baby girls are dead."

Later, at my grandmother's home, I met my cousin Jere in the kitchen. I begged her to understand that our misunderstandings were unfounded... I think I was somehow trying to make amends with Darla through her. My Aunt Diana had locked herself in the bathroom and refused to come out. She refused to believe that this had happened to her daughter.

I wasn't at the funeral. Only immediate family was flown to California. My aunt had to say goodbye after the autopsies were performed. Jere took out Darla's eyebrow piercing and put it in place of her own navel ring. At the funeral, someone sang Sara McLachlan's "Angel". Jimmy cried for his mother.

The crosses placed at the site were among countless others on that dangerous stretch of road. It is a beautiful area, from what I've heard, but also very desolate. I have found links to the story from a news source on the net.

By your side
Sade

You think I'd leave your side baby?
You know me better than that
You think I'd leave down when your down on your knees?
I wouldn't do that

I'll do you right when your wrong

If only you could see into me

oh, when your cold
I'll be there to hold you tight to me
When your on the outside baby and you can't get in
I will show you, your so much better than you know
When your lost, when your alone and you can't get back again
I will find you darling I'll bring you home

If you want to cry
I am here to dry your eyes
and in no time you'll be fine

You think I'd leave your side baby
You know me better than that
You think I'd leave you down when your down on your kness
I wouldn't do that

I'll do you right when your wrong

If only you could see into me

Oh when your cold
I'll be there
To hold you tight to me
Oh when your alone
I'l be there by your side baby


5 comments:

Carol said...

I am so sorry for your loss, my heart goes out to you. You have made a beautiful tibute to their memory.

Anonymous said...

chanemza

thank you. a beautiful tribute. a beautiful explanation. thank you. zmanzero

Anonymous said...

shanna, i'm so very sorry...

thank you for sharing with us some of the beauty of darla and her family and how much they meant to you

i'll be praying for jimmy, luv.. that somehow he'll be comforted, how very horrible for him, that poor lad...

love you fwuffy

wabbit

Anonymous said...

shanna, i'm so very sorry...

thank you for sharing with us some of the beauty of darla and her family and how much they meant to you

i'll be praying for jimmy, luv.. that somehow he'll be comforted, how very horrible for him, that poor lad...

love you fwuffy

wabbit

andrena said...

Thank you Shanna...I remember asking you that awhile back....