From my journal dated June 25, 2002:
Some things from that day are such a blur and some are so clear.
Jason picked up Alina earlier in the day. They had gone to Starbucks and then came back to our house to hang out and watch a movie. We all watched some TV together and then Joe and I went to bed.
I remember waking up not too long after midnight and hearing the Jason’s car leaving to take Alina home, and then I dozed back off. I remember Marie’s call waking me up a few minutes later to tell me Brian was on his way to our house. He had come to our house a bit earlier to pick up Alina, but had knocked so quietly (not wanting to wake anyone one up since it was late) that no one heard. Somehow he thought there had been a miscommunication when he got here, so he went home. Marie told me that he got home, realized Alina wasn’t there and must still be at our house, and that he was on his way back to our house to pick up Alina. I told her I had heard Jason’s car leave so they must be headed their way, and that I would tell Brian once he got to our house.
Since I was awake, I went in to talk to Jenna for a while. When Brian got back to our house, I talked to him out of Jenna’s window, telling him that I had heard Jason’s car leave a little while ago.
I remember Brian’s frantic call when he got back home and realized they weren’t there, either. I heard the panic in his voice – he wanted them to be here. I remember Brian telling me about a really bad accident he’d passed on 180th and Interurban and that I should get over there.
I got dressed and ran downstairs to put on my tennis shoes, not realizing they were caked with mud from working outside. On impulse, I ran back upstairs to grab Joe’s cell phone and noticed, as I headed out the door again, that I had tracked mud up the stairs and into the kitchen. It’s funny what I noticed and remember. I felt bad about just leaving a trail of mud.
I remember driving along Interurban, hearing the sound of sirens not too far away, and saying over and over and over, “Oh, God, please NO! Please, God. NO!! I need him!!” It just couldn’t be Jason…he HAD to be all right.
I was greeted by a barrage of flashing lights from fire trucks and police cars as I arrived on the scene of the accident. The roads were blocked in all directions. A fireman came over as I got out of the car and started to tell me I would have to go a different route. I told him that I had to know if that was my son in the car, and he asked me why I thought it might be him. I told him Jason had been taking Alina home…they would have been on that road. They weren’t at our house and they weren’t at the Christianson’s. I had to know if it was them.
I remember the fireman then went into a super-calm, conversational mode and slowly started asking me seemingly benign questions, like what color Jason’s car was, what the model was, if anyone else was in the car, what they were wearing, what they’d been doing, if I had any photos. Stuff like that.
I realized he was trying to distract me from the accident scene and get me to focus on something else. I knew then that it was probably Jason and Alina in that car. It’s a good thing he asked me questions like he did. I was well on my way toward panic.
I called Joe on the house phone and told him had better come down there right away. Jenna and Joe arrived within minutes.
It took the fire and rescue people a while to tell us anything. We just stood out by our car and waited, shivering. A fire truck blocked the way so we couldn’t see the car in the ditch. Since the car was in our name and not in Jason’s, they had to officially confirm that we were the owners. I remember once they confirmed it was our car, they told us that “both occupants are deceased.” I went totally numb and just stood there. Joe kept asking if they needed to be taken to the emergency room…maybe they were just unconscious. And they kept saying him, “No, both occupants are deceased.” Joe just sobbed and sobbed; I had just gone completely numb to the core of me. I couldn’t even think.
A chaplain came over to us, but I didn’t know what to say to him. Brian, Marie and Kari had arrived on the scene, too, so the chaplain went to talk to them. I just stood there. I didn’t know what to do.
We must have looked cold, because an officer brought us blankets to wrap around ourselves. We stood for a while, sat in the car for a while. I called Eric and woke him up, telling him to wake his roommate to have him drive Eric over. I let the officers know that our older son and his roommate were on their way over, and that they would need to be allowed to pass by the accident to get to us.
Marie said something about needing to make phone calls, and I realized that I would need to go home and some calls, too. I had to call people and tell them our precious Jason had died.
As we drove home and up the driveway, I remember looking up at Jason’s room. The Christmas lights he had strung around the ceiling were on…they looked so cheerful. It just seemed so unreal. I noticed as I walked up the stairs that, after I’d left earlier, Joe must have vacuumed up the mud I’d tracked in. Strange what you notice.
I started to call people. It’s amazing…I was so numb that I could actually call people and tell them our son and his best friend were just killed in a car accident. It was just after 4:00 a.m., but I called person after person – my sister in Oklahoma, my mom in Iowa, relatives, people we had known for years, our church. I called some of Jason’s friends, making sure that I talked to a parent so that they could tell their child. I wanted to make sure Jason’s friends had a parent to hug and hold them when they learned about their friends’ deaths.
And then I fell apart.
The whole experience was surreal. It still seems surreal, like it just can’t be real. It can’t be us. It can’t be Jason and Alina.
(Entry edited for clarity. Brian and Marie are Alina’s parents; Kari is Alina’s sister.)