It was October 30th of 2009, it was a Friday. I was at work, plugging along and almost 6 months pregnant when my phone rang and it looked like it was my mom calling from work...it wasn't. "Nici, this is Beth, your mom's co-worker. There has been an accident with Ashley, oh god Nici, Ashley is dead. Your Mom just screamed and ran into the break room, people are with her. I don't know what happened, I'm so sorry." WHAT? This wasn't happening. Ashley was my niece, she was going to be 21 in 21 days-the countdown had begun. We were going to celebrate. There had to be a misunderstanding, Ashley was fine.
I remeber starting to ask questions and starting to cry-this wasn't right, this wasn't right, this wasn't right. My mom can be very emotional, they weren't getting the whole story. Some co-workers started to come to my desk to see if I was all right. Beth was concerned about my Mom, she couldn't drive and they didn't want her to be alone. I told them I would call my dad to come and get her and hung up. Thankfully my parents were very amicable, even though they had been divorced since I was in 7th grade. Then my phone rang again-it was my Mom. She was sobbing-"Ashley is dead Nici, Ashley is dead, there's been a car accident and she was killed." I told her I was calling dad to come and get her, I was leaving work and I would be to Toledo within the next 3 hours. I hung up the phone and it started to sink in. I lost my brother 3 years ago and now I've lost Ash...and she wasn't alone in that car-she was almost 5 months pregnant. Oh god the baby too.
My friends went into calm down mode-I was pregnant also, so I had to be aware of our little girl-I shut down. I called my dad to tell him the news and to go get Mom and stay with her until I could get there, please. Then I called The Don-he was at work, I needed him to come home and see if his parents could please pick up Justin from school so we could leave immediately. I didn't want Justin to have to go with us to Toledo yet, he didn't need to be there when we were getting the full story and arranging his sister's funeral.
I think I was in denial when we left-there had to be a mistake and I would get there and she would be ok. That wasn't the story.
The story was a tragic one. Ash was on her way into Toledo from the outlying suburb she lived in. She was on Airport highway, a main road that runs through Toledo and out farther than I know. It has a speed limit of 50 mph so people cruise. She was heading in for a day with friends and family, she may have had school also. A text came through from a friend about lunch-that's the last we know. She hit a semi truck in front of her that had stopped to turn left-head on. The car was a mangled mess and Ash was killed instantly. There were no skid marks, she hadn't even had time to slow down, she had become preoccupied as so many of us do. It happened that fast. Her phone probably sang a top 40 song, that she loved to download for her rings, she looked down to check her message...it ended up that God had called that day.
I got to Toledo and had to help plan her and baby Steven's funeral-it finally sunk in. I had to keep it together for the family-for my Mom. I laid in bed that night and just cried, where I was alone so noone could see. Our Ashley was gone, I never got to meet her baby and she would never meet mine, the little baby girl who came into my life when I was 9 years old had left my life, only 20 years later. Too soon. Too young. To texting.
There are many stories that are coming out about the dangers of texting and driving. I don't know what it will take for people to make a change and just stop doing it but if this story convinces one person then I am grateful. The only blessing from Ashley's accident is that nobody else was hurt, but that's not always the case. More than just your life is in your hands when you get in a car, it is too important of a responsibility to allow yourself to be distracted. Not just with texting but with talking and drinking and being overly tired. We need to take driving more seriously! Please turn off your phones when you get into your car-nothing is more important than protecting yourself and everyone else on the road when you are driving...nothing.
I miss Ashley everday. I have an ultrasound picture of Baby Steven at 14 weeks-that Ashley texted me, his heartbeat was 152. He was a healthy baby boy. That's a picture I look at all the time, just not when I'm driving.