In the court proceedings after the crash, it was shown that we didn‘t have a chance. The oncoming car never attempted to slow down. At the last second, the driver overcorrected to avoid crashing into the bridge support pillars, and his car T-boned our car, striking it directly in the rear passenger door. The force was so violent and tremendous that the impact stopped our car from going downhill and pushed it back uphill and toward the bridge supports on the opposite side of the roadway. The sound of the car hitting ours was a sickening, dense, crushing thud of metal on metal—a quick, catastrophic, singular sound of devastation.
Site of car crash, February 9, 2007 (The Williams's car is on the right)
Immediately after the impact, my mind was active and aware that we had been hit, but I couldn‘t hear anything nor could I see anything but a blinding, brilliant white that appeared to encompass me. The light didn‘t seem to have any single point from which it came; everything that I was conscious and aware of was immersed in a luminous whiteness. The sensation of being surrounded by silence and white dissipated like a fog slowly lifting. I could perceive what looked like very fine snow falling in front of me and around the car; later I decided it was perhaps the finer pieces of the exploded windshield now falling gently back to earth. I began to hear a noise that sounded faint at first but which grew progressively louder. It was a high-pitched, strained, mechanical sound coming from a car engine being revved at its highest rate; I sensed that my right leg was fully depressing the accelerator pedal.
Fearing that we would explode with the engine revving so high, I tried to move my leg off the pedal, but it wouldn‘t respond to my attempts to move it. I tried to move my hand forward to turn the car off, and I immediately felt excruciating pain. I knew then that I was significantly injured. I struggled to work my hand progressively forward, and I finally turned the ignition key off. The airbag had deployed, and the dash had been pushed toward me. My mind was racing to process what had just happened; we had been critically hit by whatever had been speeding toward us.
There was no sound from anyone in the car. I could see Michelle was motionless and curled up in a fetal position on the passenger seat; her hair was draped over her face so that I couldn‘t see it at all. I desperately struggled to move my hand onto hers, to feel for a pulse. I couldn‘t sense a heartbeat through her hand. As I continued to search her wrist for a pulse, I saw her other arm closest to her door. She had a significant wound on her elbow that wasn‘t bleeding; it looked like it had been blown open from the inside, and I could see bone and tissue, but no blood. In that instant, I knew that she was gone. In my state of shock, still struggling to comprehend what had just happened, that thought was so clear and definitive. It didn‘t come from deductive reasoning, it was just pure knowledge of a terrible reality, that no amount of CPR or emergency assistance would help her—she was gone. My thoughts raced to my children in the backseat, were they okay?
I physically struggled to turn my head, frantically trying to move so I could check on the condition of my children. Ben was sitting directly behind Michelle and was the first child I was able to see. He was sitting upright, his head resting against the imploded car door. He had a significant gash on his head, exposing his skull, and I could see that the wound wasn‘t bleeding. Once again, I experienced the same type of immediate understanding regarding his condition, that he was gone. I just felt it. I struggled to turn further to see Anna who was sitting in the middle backseat. She was sitting upright but leaning slightly forward, with her hair draped over her head so I couldn‘t see her face. I couldn‘t see any physical injury whatsoever; she looked like she had just fallen asleep. But before I could even begin to think that she might be okay and might have survived the impact, I once again instantly knew that she too was gone. With that final revelation as to their deaths, I also knew that that was the extent—I couldn‘t see Sam nor could I hear him, but I didn‘t think to be worried or concerned or to call out for him or try to see if he was alive or dead.
As I stopped straining to see into the backseat, I turned my head toward Michelle and I saw her chest sink down. She hadn‘t been breathing, but that was it, one final exhale, and then I thought of our baby.
What I was witnessing was so absolutely unreal. I couldn‘t take it anymore; I turned my head forward and closed my eyes; I was ready for death. I tried to will myself to pass out; I wanted to succumb to the process of having my spirit leave my body. The more I tried to let go and die, the more I became aware of a terrible,“other worldly” sound that was growing louder and louder, interrupting my thoughts and my desire to pass to the other side. The sound wasn‘t coming from the car or the surroundings, although I was aware that by then there were people outside the car. I even remember hearing someone exclaim,“Oh no, there are children inside!” No, this sound was coming from right where I sat, not from my throat, but from deep inside my body. I was the one making that horrific sound—that sound of excruciating anguish and pain, of a body and a spirit being crushed.