I am the survivor of a terrible truck crash. I am the mom of two daughters who did not survive. The difference? Their part of the car went under the truck; mine did not.
In the aftermath, I found out that the rear underride guard could have been made stronger to withstand the crash so that AnnaLeah and Mary might — like me — have been survivors of a terrible truck crash. I learned that, if effective underride protection was installed on trucks, we could save hundreds of people who die every year when a truck enters their occupant space. So now, I am a mom on a mission to make truck crashes more survivable.
Hear some of the tragic underride stories: Interactive Underride Crash Map
How did it come about? In October 2012, Jerry and I moved to North Carolina with the three youngest of our nine children. Four of the nine were going to college in Texas. When they all came home for Christmas break, we got the news that our oldest daughter, Rebekah, had just gotten engaged. We planned a big trip to Texas in May for the celebration of a wedding, four college graduations, and two family birthdays (AnnaLeah turning 18 & Vanessa turning 4).
Mary baked a seven-layer engagement cake to surprise Rebekah when she arrived for the holiday. Rebekah asked me to sew her wedding dress and we shopped for a pattern and material. In the ensuing months, Mary (13) served as a model for her sister’s wedding dress, and AnnaLeah sewed a little bride’s dress for a surprise birthday present for Vanessa.
On May 4, 2013, we packed our Crown Vic and headed for Texas. But the trip did not go as planned and it turned out to be AnnaLeah’s and Mary’s last journey they would make on this earth. We came upon slowed traffic on I-20 in Georgia (from a fatal crash two miles ahead, two hours earlier). We slowed down, but a truck driver did not — hitting our car and sending it into a spin so that the car went backward into the tractor-trailer ahead of us. The rear underride guard failed to withstand the crash and the back of the car went under the trailer.
AnnaLeah and Mary were in the backseat. AnnaLeah died at the scene and Mary a few days later from her very serious injuries.
In the four years following that day, we have been working hard to turn tragedy into advocacy — including the drafting of the STOP Underrides! Bill soon to be introduced in the U.S. Congress to mandate the installation of technology to end these preventable tragedies.
More memories of Roya, AnnaLeah, & Mary — our precious ones, gone too soon: The Naming of an Underride Bill; Out of the Mouths of Babes
Sign & Share the STOP Underrides! Bill Petition here: Congress, Act Now To End Deadly Truck Underride!.