BY ABBY MAC
A few weeks ago, a girl I knew, got into the passenger seat of a car and went joy riding. She was 16 and the driver, also drunk, was 18. Then, at 3:30am the car they were driving slammed into a power pole and tore half the car apart leaving one half at the power pole and the other 10 metres further up the road. What followed was the most frightening. Silence. Those who lived on the road or close by didn’t hear screams for helps and the girls moaning in agony. It was totally silent.
Both the driver and passenger were killed which left police reporting it as a ‘horrific’ scene and one that is unforgettable. Unlike all the crashes broadcast upon televisions, newspapers and the internet, I knew that girl. I knew that girl, who I know was judged for being an out of control teen who couldn’t identify the fine line that ran between right and wrong. I knew that girl who left parents tutting and lead as a model to everything that the child shouldn’t be.
At the time of the accident, I was holidaying and so I wasn’t aware of the crash until three days ago. I was told by a friend that a girl from my previous school had died in a car accident but she didn’t know and so I was left to mull over taking second guesses and who it was.
I knew the girls were drunk and at a party so I quickly created a profile of what I thought the girl was like; untamed, popular and risky. At that stage, I didn’t know who had died but I judged her, nevertheless. As soon as I arrived home, I scoured the internet for anything on the two girls or the crash.
Then, I saw her face. I knew her. I knew that girl. I read story after story, describing what type of girl she was. The media painted her a profile that sickened me. They ensured parents would only feel more comfortable tutting her. By the way the media painted her, people think they know her. They know her type. But, they did not know her. Everyone was happy to accept that she was just another teen who got drunk, jumped in a car and crashed. Just like I have in the past, people think that there is only one type of teen that gets drunk and crashes a car. But there’s not.
I think that there is a naivety in how many teens did what that girl did. The naivety spread across other teens, parents and adults. Before I hit high school, I didn’t know that people in grade eight were getting drunk, smoking and having sex. Before I hit high school, I thought the law and common sense could stop this. I know girls who are loved and adored by parents and teachers, represent their school as a captain or leader and also the girls who get drunk Friday night, smoke pot and end by having sex.
I am not saying that all teenagers get drunk, smoke or have sex. Not at all. I don’t do that. But what I trying to stress is that there is not one type of teenager who does that. It is not necessarily the teen whose ear is decorated and earrings and runs the popular crowd nor can we rule out that it is the middle school captain who is adored by everyone in the community. Eventually, our naivety spreads to ignorance. We don’t want to believe that the good girl is also the bad one. Truthfully, it is easier to believe that it is the bad girl and feel safe knowing that your friend, son or daughter or pupil isn’t them.
The way the media portrayed this girl, she was the bad girl. But she really wasn’t. I didn’t know her very well, but she definitely left and imprint on me when I did talk to her. We both played hockey at school and since some trainings different teams trained together, I started to get to know her. I particularly dislike training with her team due to the criticism I would receive for being fitter, faster and more skilful than them. While I ran laps around (literally), her and all her friends, she was the only one that wouldn’t try to trip me as I ran or would yell different taunts at me as I ran. She was that girl who stuck up for me. However, the media failed to portray this side to her. Because it was easier if she was the troublesome girl.
For the sake of her privacy, I will call her Elizabeth. Elizabeth wasn’t troublesome, she was just troubled. Like everyone, she had multiple different faces and sides which only certain people would see certain sides. At school, with her friends, she was the one everyone liked. At home, she created trouble. For me, she was very kind and thoughtful.
A part of me feels wrong for grieving for her loss. I didn’t know her that long. I think that it isn’t my right to cry and feel a sense of loss for someone I only talked with weekly and eventually stopped because we no longer trained together. Though, sometimes I cry not just for her loss but for other things as well. I cry because of the way she has been portrayed in the media. I cry because she is now helpless to defend herself against the tuts and the stories her family are now telling the media. I cry because the last face being shown is the troublesome one.
I cry about death itself. I have never really experienced it and I don’t even know if this loss counts as an experience but death is inevitable. For me and everyone I know. Death is something that cannot be stopped yet we dance around the idea of dying. We place an age on death, when really death is not an age but the end to your story. For Elizabeth, death was an age and not the end to her story. Death was not a car slamming into a power pole at a high speed and the car being torn apart.
I still find it hard to get my head around this loss of life. Not life as in her heart stopping beating and her body no longer functioning but how her spirit and her essence is so easily taken from this world. How can that girl who once galloped around the hockey fields, limped to her semi-formal because her foot was broken and stood up for me now gone? Before Elizabeth died, I placed an age on death as well.
It’s not anyone’s fault that she and her friend died. If we blame someone for it, it is much the same as judging what Elizabeth was like. I wish from the bottom of my heart that what happened didn’t happen. I really do. But, that wish is impossible and I think the best I can do is learn from this event and portray Elizabeth in a light so many haven’t. I have decided to write her a letter.
I hope you are feeling okay. I hope you don’t feel wrong that I am grieving for your death even though we haven’t talked for a while. I want you to know that what you did for me was really special and eased the pain of going to those trainings. I can’t really repay you now for what you do but I am doing my best. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you’re gone. That slamming into a pole could take away all of you. Your essence of life and kindness but that’s what death does.
I am sorry for assuming the type of person you were in that car. But I know now that you were so much more. I am sorry you didn’t even get to finish school and be proud of your achievement. I am so incredibly sorry for your death.
Your life and death has changed me.