There were nine of them. They were best of friends. They were all girls. They were all graduates - class of 2007, Fairport.
Before going their separate ways for the summer, and then off to this or that college, they'd planned this one last outing. One of the girls' parents had a cottage on Keuka Lake. A great place to lounge and relax and swim and sunbathe for a day or two. They traveled in two cars; five in the first and four in the second.
Was it the vehicle? Was it speed? Was it inexperience? Was it distraction? The lead car swung into the oncoming traffic lane to pass a slower vehicle. That done, it swung back to its own lane. Then - for whatever reason - it swerved again into the oncoming lane, and smashed head on into an oncoming tractor-trailer. Both vehicles exploded and the flames reached 50 feet, burning through cable and telephone lines. The second car stopped at once, but no one could get near for the heat. They could only watch.
As word of the 10 PM crash spread, nearly 100 classmates and family gathered at Fairport High School. David Paddock, the school principal said they watched the sun rise together. "The sun came up," he said. "I'm not sure we all thought it would." The next night several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil. "It's a community nightmare....I'm personally devastated," Paddock said. "Our hearts are broken. We love our kids and are crying." Several thousand attended weekend calling hours at the school gym (four of the five had been cheerleaders).
By chance, Governor Eliot Spitzer was in town to chew out state senators for skipping out of Albany for the summer, leaving important work undone. But the local senator, Senator Alesi, would not be chewed out. He cited the tragedy: "I think it would be insensitive to get embroiled in petty partisan politics at this point." Spitzer had beat him to it, however, condolence-wise: "We are suffering with the emotional agony of the tragedy of the students. It just does make your blood run cold. It makes you appreciate every day you have with your children. Our condolences go out to families and those who are touched by this — our hearts go out to all who are touched by this."
Stories and follow-up stories ran for days and days and aren't done yet. The local paper questioned why the vehicles should have erupted in flames; maybe they should have been designed better. Had they been, and had passengers been belted, maybe some would have survived. This, at a combined head-on crash speed of 120 MPH!
Bloggers blogged for days, just like I'm doing now. "Why did God have to take our girls?" one person asked. "We needed these angels here on earth!" And somewhere, without a doubt, some dopey preacher was offering exactly the same obscene "comfort": God was "picking flowers,"and He needed the best.