Former First Lady Laura Bush is releasing her memoir “Spoken From the Heart’ next month. In it, she opens up about the fatal car crash she was involved in as a 17-year-old, and offers advice to other young people who survive traumatic car accidents.
Up until now, Laura Bush has been fairly tight-lipped about the accident, in which she and a girlfriend were racing to a movie. I imagine her motives for keeping quiet were partly political–her husband was in public life, and there would be any number of people over the years seeking to turn her accident into a political issue.
But reading her words now, it is also clear that some of her silence was do to the deeply personal feelings she wrestled with over the crash. Bush was driving the car, and ran a stop sign, smashing into another car being driven by her classmate, Mike Douglas. She offers a moving account of praying for Douglas’ life to spared as the two lied on adjacent gurneys in the emergency room.
“It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard. My begging, to my seventeen-year-old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas’s sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain.”
Douglas died that night as a result of the crash.
Bush has since spent much of her public life reaching out to young drivers in similar circumstances, encouraging them to speak about their feelings and experiences. I applaud her for it. As a mother, I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child, naturally. But watching your child handle surviving such a crash must also be harrowing. It can’t be easy for her to open up about that night, but it is important that she does–for her kids, and for all of ours.