Laura Bush Opens Up About Crash
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Published: April 27, 2010
Laura Bush has finally opened up publicly about the mysterious car accident she had when she was 17, a crash that claimed the life of a high school friend on a dark country road in Midland, Tex.
In her new book, “Spoken From the Heart,” Mrs. Bush describes in vivid detail the circumstances surrounding the crash, which has haunted her for most of her adult life and which became the subject of questions and speculation when it was revealed during her husband’s first presidential run. A copy of the book, scheduled for release in early May, was obtained by The New York Times at a bookstore.
On several occasions in the book, Mrs. Bush admonishes her husband’s political adversaries for “calling him names,” and she pointedly rebuts criticism of some of his key decisions. She suggested that his highly criticized fly-over of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was in the best interests of the victims and aid workers on the ground.
“He did not want one single life to be lost because someone was catering to the logistical requirements of a president,” she says about the Katrina fly-over. “He did not want his convoy of vehicles to block trucks delivering water or food or medical supplies, or to impede National Guardsmen from around the nation who were arriving to help.”
Mrs. Bush also suggests, apparently for the first time, that she, Mr. Bush, and several members of their staff may have been poisoned during a visit to Germany for a G8 Summit. They all became mysteriously sick, and the president was bedridden for part of the trip. The Secret Service investigated the possibility they were poisoned, she writes, but doctors could only conclude that they all contracted a virus. After noting several high-profile poisonings, she wrote, “we never learned if any other delegations became ill, or if ours, mysteriously, was the only one.”
Later, Mrs. Bush takes on Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat who is speaker of the House of Representatives, for calling Mr. Bush “an incompetent leader” and for saying he lacked judgment, knowledge and experience. She also bristles at the insults thrown at Mr. Bush by the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, quoting him as calling her husband a “loser” and a “liar.”
“The comments were uncalled for and graceless,” she writes. “While a president’s political opponents, as well as his supporters, are entitled to make what they see as legitimate criticisms, and while our national debates should be spirited, these particular worlds revealed the petty and parochial nature of some who serve in Congress.”
But it is her description of the deadly accident, and its subsequent impact on her life and her faith, that is the subject Mrs. Bush had most shied away from speaking about in her public life. On a November night in 1963, Mrs. Bush and a girlfriend were hurrying to a drive-in theater when Mrs. Bush, at the wheel of her father’s Chevy Impala, ran a stop sign on a small road and smashed into a car being driven by Mike Douglas, a star athlete and popular student at her school.
“In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to earth,” she says. “The whole time,” she adds later, “I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling ‘Please, God. Please, God. Please, God,’ over and over and over again.”
Mrs. Bush concedes that she and her friend were chatting when she ran the stop sign. But she also suggests a host of factors beyond her control played a role — the pitch-black road, an unusually dangerous intersection, the small size of the stop sign, and the car the victim was driving.
“It was sporty and sleek, and it was also the car that Ralph Nader made famous in his book Unsafe at Any Speed,” she states. “He claimed the car was unstable and prone to rollover accidents. A few years later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went so far as to investigate the Corvair’s handling, but it didn’t reach the same grim conclusions. I was driving my dad’s much larger and heavier Chevy Impala. But none of that would ever ease the night of November 6. Not for me, and never for the Douglases.”
Mrs. Bush reveals that she was wracked by guilt for years after the crash, especially after not attending the funeral and for not reaching out to the parents of the dead teenager. Her parents did not want her to show up at the funeral, she states, and she ended up sleeping through it.
“I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years,” she says. “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.”
Mrs. Bush goes on to say that in her public life, she has encouraged young drivers who have been in serious accidents to speak to loved ones, counselors or spiritual or pastoral advisers.
“But while I give this advice in my letters, I didn’t do any of that,” she reveals. “Most of how I ultimately coped with the crash was by trying not to talk about it, not to think about it, to put it aside. Because there wasn’t anything I could do. Even if I tried.”
Source: NY Times