Archive for February 24th, 2012

Absolutely Tragic

5:00 PM this past Monday.

I was sitting in a parking lot, waiting for my daughter to finish her dance lesson.

I decided to flip a radio channel to a station I seldom listen to.

It was the top of the hour news update.

There was a story about an terrible car accident on Interstate 94 near the town of Alexandria, Minnesota.

The story reported that the accident had claimed four lives.

That was all it said.

No names, no details, other than, poor road conditions likely played a role.

I suddenly had a bad feeling about this.

It was President’s Day and it was the end of a long three day weekend for my kids. But not just my two kids that are still living at home, but also my son, who goes to school at North Dakota State University in Fargo. He hadn’t come home, but he and some friends from school did travel about 80 miles from Fargo to spend the weekend at a cabin on a lake.

When I spoke to him on Sunday, he indicated their plans were to return to campus early on Monday.

That’s all I thought of it until about 5:01 on Monday afternoon.

I hadn’t heard from him all day and that was a little strange. Normally, he would call and let me know that he had gotten back to school safely.

I had a little bit of an uneasy feeling, but since I was pretty sure his travel route didn’t take him near Alexandria, I wasn’t overly concerned.

But I did have a bad feeling that this accident somehow involved NDSU.

I knew with the long weekend that the campus would have pretty much emptied out and there would be a lot of students heading back on Monday.

I tried to reach my son on his cell, no answer.

I sent him a text, no response.

A few minutes later, I tried another call, still no answer.

Upon returning home with my daughter, I went to the glove compartment and got out my Minnesota road map. I located Alexandria on the map and felt pretty certain that my son and his friends would have not been traveling in that area. But still I was concerned that I hadn’t been able to reach him.

Finally, at around 6:00 PM I received a call from my son telling me that he had made it back to campus safely.

They had got a later start than planned, had ran into bad weather and he had run out of cell battery.

I was relieved!

The 6:00 PM newscast reported the accident, but again with very few details. The station was sending a crew to the scene and would have more details on a later newscast.

I still had this bad feeling about it somehow involving NDSU.

Around 9:30 that evening, my son phoned again. This time with the terrible news that the accident had indeed involved NDSU.

Four freshmen girls, all from the Twin Cities area, returning to campus from the long weekend, were killed when the car they were in spun out of control on slick roads, crossed the median into oncoming traffic and was hit broadside by an SUV. They were all wearing seat belts.

Sadly, my uneasy feeling had been correct.

My son was upset.

He knew all four girls, but knew one better since he had met her through his girlfriend, while all were still in high school last year.

He indicated that everyone in the dorms was in a state of shock and disbelief.

I couldn’t sleep.

At 11:00 PM I called him back.

We talked for a half hour about the accident and how tragic it was. A friend from high school and fellow NDSU freshman who had been extremely good friends with all of the girls was having a very difficult time. I told my son to simply be a good friend and to offer comfort.

We also discussed the dangers of traveling in the winter.

He had been home about a month ago and traveled back to school in poor road conditions. This, despite our best efforts to time his trip to avoid the bad weather.

It was the longest five hours I can remember.

During a winter in which we’ve had very little snow, it is hard to imagine this occurred.

The accident happened on Monday at 3:00 PM, which meant the girls probably left the Twin Cities sometime around noon. It didn’t start snowing here until after 6:00 that night. According to the news, Alexandria had only been receiving snow for about a half hour prior to the accident, yet road conditions and visibility deteriorated quickly. They had left home in good weather and had driven into a snowstorm.

Last night, a memorial service for the four girls was held on NDSU’s campus.

The funerals of the girls are planned for today and tomorrow, here in the Twin Cities.

A few months ago, all of the girls happily began a new chapter in their lives.

Tragically, that ended far too soon on Monday.

In Memory Of…

Lauren Peterson
Jordan Playle
Danielle Renninger
Megan Sample