She remembers that day. She remembers it as if it were yesterday. July 23, 1996. The day her life changed. The day everything changed. Images flow constant through her mind, re-enacting that day. Play. Rewind. Play. Rewind. As if she were watching a recorded TV show. Crystal clear.
The morning of the 23rd was dull and overcast. The sun remained in hiding, somewhere behind the clouds that billowed grey, threatening rain.
Rebecca and her sister were walking to school, as they did every morning at the same time. Usually the girls talked as they walked. However today both girls were silent, neither felt like forcing the conversation.
A few minutes passed. The tired silence was comforting so early this morning. The girls waited at the pedestrian crossing on the main road. Commuters and school children moved to and from the station across from them. Beginning their day with the ever-exciting thrill of public transport.
“I forgot to make toffee last night. There wont be any to sell today.” Jessica said, more contemplating a thought out loud than looking for a response.
She and a friend had been selling homemade toffee at school during lunch break. Making a little extra money.
“One day isn’t the end of the world.” Jessica nodded slightly at her sister in response.
The walk light turned green, and they stepped onto the crossing. Rebecca a few steps behind her sister.
All went dark.
Rebecca felt herself being pushed by an enormous force, then thrown to the side of the road. She knew what had happened. Even though she hadn’t seen. Even before she opened her eyes.
When Rebecca came to, she was lying at the side of the road. She’d been thrown into the gutter, and after hitting her head, had blacked out momentarily. One thought, and one thought alone raced through her mind.
‘Where is Jessica?’
Attempting to push the pain away, Rebecca struggled to her feet. She winced in agony. The car was 10 metres down from the crossing. She couldn’t see her sister. Jessica was nowhere in sight.
Upon reaching the car Rebecca raised her fists, hitting the passenger side window repeatedly. No effect. The driver stared blankly through the tinted windows at her as she stumbled around to the other side of the car. Rebecca knew what had happened. She sensed Jessica’s presence with her mind before she saw with her eyes.
There she was. Lying on the road. The tyre of the car rested firmly on top of her left foot, her leg bent at an unnatural angle.
Jessica was conscious. In her steely blue eyes lay a whirlpool of pain. Eye contact was almost more than Rebecca could bare.
“Get it off” Jessica’s voice was a mere whisper. She cleared her throat.
“My foot. Get it off my foot.” Her voice was louder this time. Surprisingly strong.
Rebecca winced. She looked around, not knowing what to do. The driver opened the door against Jessica’s head. Unfazed, he stepped out over her body. Then walked to the side of the road, and took off his sunglasses.
She felt like she might throw up. She felt like she was going to cry. She felt like she was all alone. Rebecca didn’t have the slightest idea how to help her sister. She forced these emotions aside, and tried to call for help. Nothing came out. Not a single word. So she screamed.
The scream was loud and clear. Not a hysterical scream as might have been expected. This scream was short lived, but attracted the attention of everyone in the area. In a matter of seconds Rebecca looked up to see two policewomen running towards her.
She felt a wave of relief flood through her body. One of the policewomen put her hand on Rebecca’s shoulder, and began to push her gently towards the side of the road.
‘My sister got hit! Her foot!!”
The words blurted out of her mouth as she looked back to where the other woman was standing over Jessica.
Retrieving a notepad and pen from her pocket, the woman began to question Rebecca.
“Were you here when it happened?”
Rebecca glanced over to where her sister remained lying in the middle of the road. The car, having been moved off her foot, was parked nearby. Looking back at the woman, she realised that the question was aimed at her.
“Huh?!?! Oh.. Yeah. Of course I was here…. I got hit too.”
She moved her arm to point to where her bag and folder lay crushed on the road. Then she stopped and bit her lip to drive away the pain. Looking down at her arm, she rubbed her elbow. A large, painful bruise had already appeared; darkly shadowed on the surface of her skin.
The woman nodded and wrote something down on the pad.
“Would you mind telling me exactly what happened?”
Rebecca frowned and looked at her feet. After a moment she regained eye contact with the woman.
“I don’t know.”
“Have you been drinking? Have you consumed any alcohol this morning?”
Rebecca stared at the policewoman in shock. Not believing her ears.
“You’ve got to be kidding! You’re joking aren’t you?”
The look on the woman’s face remained completely serious.
“Of course I haven’t been drinking! I’m on my way to school for fucks sake!”
There was a long pause while the woman continued to write on the pad. More questions were asked, and Rebecca answered them in a daze. Every one felt like a punch in the guts. Birthdate? Address? School? Punch. Punch. Punch. Rebecca glanced over at Jessica again.
“Please!” She pleaded. “She’s my sister! I need to be with her. I can’t leave her alone. She’s in pain! Can’t you see that?!!”
The look in the woman’s eyes softened.
“I know that, but you have to wait here until the ambulance arrives. It will take you and your sister to hospital.”
Rebecca lowered herself down to sit in the gutter.
“Me?” She asked.
The policewoman glanced at Rebecca. Her gaze shifting downwards, lingering where her bruised arms were wrapped around her waist, holding her stomach.
“You’ll have to get checked out. That elbow looks sore. You’ll also have to get a blood alcohol reading taken. Anyone over the age of 15, in an accident involving a motor vehicle has to have a reading done.”
Rebecca just nodded her head, and looked at her feet. It wasn’t a time to argue the rules.
“Will you be alright to wait here?”
She nodded again. It was then that the woman left her. Sitting in the gutter. Rebecca noticed her walking towards the driver of the car, her notepad in hand.
A kind faced man bent down beside Rebecca.
"You know her don't you hon?" He motioned to Jessica, his face soft. Full of concern.
"She's my sister... My little sister..." Rebecca noticed the man was holding a mobile phone.
"Could I use your phone? Please, I need to call Mum. She should be here."
"What’s the number hon?" He dialled the numbers as she spoke. Mumbled a few words into the phone, then handed it to her.
Rebecca couldn’t keep her voice steady. She told her mum where they were. She told her mum what had happened to Jessica. It was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do.
By the time the ambulance arrived Rebecca’s parents were both at the scene. Rebecca sat and watched. Everyone hovered around where Jessica was still lying on the road. The shock was beginning to set in. She shivered. She watched the ambulance officers lift Jessica onto a stretcher. Watched her slide into the back of the ambulance. Moments later Rebecca was helped from the gutter into the front passenger seat of the ambulance. Her mum climbed into the back. Holding Jessica’s hand. The doors closed.
As the ambulance drove away, a light rain began to fall. Rebecca thought to herself.
‘This could all be a dream. It feels like I’m in a dream. But everything’s so clear. Crystal clear. Dreams are never like that….’
This is a true story. Written and rewritten from the memories of an intensly painful personal experience. I share this with you. In order to perhaps move on from that day.