Janelle, born august 21, 1990 was my only child. She was a typical 15 year old that loved playing on her computer, talking on her cell phone, going to football games and hanging out with her friends. She loved life but on July 6, 2006 her life was snatched away on I-70, mile marker 141 in Clark county, Illinois.
As i have said, this is not a memorial for Janelle but rather a place to plea my case. For some this may be graphic and heartbreaking and for that i am sorry. For others, you may read my story and walk away from your computer and never give me a second thought. If so, thats OK but remember this, it very easily could have been your child.
Janelle's father and i decided early June to travel to Oklahoma to visit with his mother and to finally meet relatives we've never met before. We have never been on a "road trip" and decided that it was an excellent idea. Janelle was getting older and we realized that we wouldn't get many more opportunities to do this.
We decided to leave on June 30, 2006 and to our surprise Janelle was excited about traveling and seeing another part of the country. We allowed Janelle to bring her cousin, Latrisha, age 13. As the four of us, along with our family dog, buddy started our
trip we talked about what we would do. The sites we would see. We were all laughing and looking forward to a good time.
As we left the state of Michigan, her father and i became outraged at the way the truck drivers were driving. We were going the speed limit and they were flying past us like we were sitting still. Traveling at speeds of 85-90 mph. I remember thinking, these were machines capable of killing, why would they travel that fast? As we traveled through Illinois, Indiana and Missouri we only saw three highway patrol cars. That is equal to one patrol unit per state monitoring the freeways. As we approached Oklahoma, I was relieved that we made it safely.
When we reached robs mothers house, Janelle, along with Latrisha ran inside, gave hugs and then proceeded to the computer room. Janelle emailed her boyfriend, where she
learned that he had bought her a promise ring. As we were sitting in the living room visiting, we heard a loud scream as Janelle came running out and informing us what he had gotten her.
The next day, we dropped Janelle and Latrisha off at the mall so they could do some shopping. A few hours later, Janelle called and informed us that they were done shopping. We picked them up where Janelle showed me the outfits that she had purchased. She was particularly fond of a camouflage mini skirt.
We had made plans to stay in Oklahoma for a couple days and then leave for Kansas on the Fourth of July for a family reunion and barbecue.
On July 5th we left Kansas and headed back for Michigan. Once again, we were met with semis traveling high speeds. Janelle kept asking us, "what time are we going to be home?" she told us that her boyfriend had taken the next day off from work where he planned on giving her the promise ring. We promised Janelle we would be home on the 6th and she could get her ring then.
I remember talking with my mom that night. She was worried about us traveling that far. I informed her that she could go to bed and relax, we would be okay. I informed her that we made plans of stopping at Terre Haute, Indiana for the night. That was at 10:00pm. At around 11:28 pm i was unable to keep my promise to my daughter that we would be home the next day. I was unable to keep my promise to my mother that we would be okay.
As we approached marker 141 we noticed a traffic jam up the road. We came to a safe stop, along with numerous other trucks and cars. We were parked next to a semi and had
another semi parked in front of us . We were in the car laughing at my niece and the way she had pronounced Indianapolis. When "BOOM." as my car spun around, i cannot
recall the thoughts that went through my head. It seemed like it lasted forever for us to stop but it was only a matter of seconds.
(Click Image To Watch Video Of Crash Site)
Now...as i stated at the beginning, this is graphic but i need people to read my story and realize that it can and probably will happen to you.....
As our car came to a stop, i realized that we were in the ditch. Not sure what just happened i turned around to make sure the girls were okay. As my dog, buddy jumped out of the car followed by Latrisha, who ran for the freeway. Rob and i were stuck there to face something that a parent should never have to see. Lying in what was the backseat of our car was our daughter. Unconscious, blood covering her face. I yelled, "rob, Janelle." rob later recalled being scared to death to turn around but being a father, he had no other choice. As he managed to get out of the car and into the backseat to see if she was breathing. He kept screaming, "my babies dead, my babies dead. "somebody, please help us." i ran for the freeway begging for help and back to the car yelling my daughters name over and over. Rob tried to free Janelle from the car but in all the chaos he forgot that her seatbelt was still attached.
It was not until rob told me that we need to get Janelle out of the car because the fire was spreading. That is when i realized the semi that hit us was on fire and blowing up. Rob
told me a few weeks later that he was ready to make the decision to burn with his daughter. As we continued to yell for help a man ran up and was able to free Janelle. As he grabbed her out of the car, he proceeded to hand her to rob. Rob was physically drained and told the stranger that he could not hold her. The stranger then carried Janelle away and laid her a few yards from our car. Her father and i yelled for her to breath as the blood continued to poor from her mouth and nose. We kept yelling, "Aaron, you need to get your ring from Aaron." I got up and tried to find my cell phone to call 911, when i heard rob yell, "she's breathing, she's breathing." i ran over and knelt beside my daughter. Rob said, "she's gurgling, but she is breathing." as rob and i sat there alone with our daughter, praying, i covered my mouth over her blood covered lips and tried to give some air. I kept telling Janelle to breath and she would gasp for air on my command.
The ambulance finally arrived. I remember them loading Janelle onto the stretcher, I remember seeing her little hands curled , knowing that it was a possible head injury. Wondering why the bleeding would not stop. I just wanted someone to tell me that she was going to be okay but all they could say is, "she's still breathing." As they transported Janelle to the nearest hospital. I prayed the entire time. I will never forget the words of the EMT, "I think we need to start CPR." These are seven words a parent should never have to hear.
We finally reached the hospital. There they moved Janelle into a separate room and continued to work on her. The doctors came in one by one and kept us informed. They told us that her heart had started beating on its own again and that she had a broken femur. They also informed us that they sent for air rescue but if for any reason her heart stopped, they would turn around. The doctors left. I am not sure how long they were gone but when they came back into my room together, I knew she was gone. The doctor informed us that they did all they could do. They worked on her for an hour and a half. I begged and pleaded with the doctors to please go back and keep trying. She wasn't dead, she would be okay.
Five days later her father and I buried Janelle in the camouflage mini skirt she was so excited to buy and placed the promise ring her boyfriend bought her on her ring finger. She was buried with a bible, a doll her best friend had bought her, a necklace that said "forever" on it and several notes her friends placed in her "hope chest."
Janelle would have turned 16 on august 21. Instead of having a huge "sweet 16" party for her we gathered at her grave and released balloons into the air with personal sayings on them.
As i sit and write this, the smell of autumn is in the air. Janelle would have started her sophomore year today. I cried as i watched the bus pick up the other kids and wondered why my daughter couldn't be on that bus.As the investigation continues, we have learned many things. The reason the traffic was backed up was because a truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. Allegedly, His log book showed he had driven for 20 hours. His toxicology report came back, which tested positive for drugs.
What bewilders Janelle's father and I is the fact that this man was on parole from Indiana State Prison. Indiana State sentenced him on June 14, 2001 for the death of another human
life. His reason for being in prison was for "operating a vehicle while intoxicated resulting in death". Allegedly, his drivers license was suspended indefinitely. When I called and spoke to his parole officer, I asked her how in the heck was he given a CDL. Her remark to me was, "He took the test and passed it."
How can the same state that sentenced this man for killing someone behind the wheel turn around and release him. Not only giving him permission to drive a vehicle but to drive a semi. To me this is like releasing a person from prison for molesting a child and then giving them a free pass to work at a day care center. According to information given to me by the Indiana State DMV, his violation was never entered on his driving record until 2006. Allegedly, Indiana let this man slip through the cracks.
The driver that fell asleep is alive and well but according to his parole officer, he is currently back in Indiana State Prison on a parole violation and is waiting to face the parole board. When Indiana is done with him, he will be moved to Illinois to
face two counts of reckless homicide, driving while intoxicated and breaking the Federal Motor vehicle Carrier laws. We are still waiting for the reconstructive report to come back to find out why the driver that hit us was unable to stop. He too was killed in the accident. Was he too over logged? Was he speeding? Was he Not paying attention?
Janelle was our only child. She was our past, our present and our future. She was our world. She will never be able to graduate from high school, go to college and pursue her
dreams, whatever they many have been. She will never be able to walk down the isle in her wedding dress, have babies, watch her grandchildren grow up and grow old with the man she loved. Her father and I will never be able to hear her voice again. I will never be able to wrap my arms around my daughter, at least not in this world. We will never be able to hold our grandchildren. Our legacy ended on July 6, 2006.
In ending, I made a promise to my daughter, whom we loved dearly and still do that her life would not be in vain. I will do everything within my power to fight. I don't want another parent to live with the hell that we have gone through.
Written by: Janelle's mom