The reporters writing the short “see what happens” articles for newspapers across the nation and even in the UK didn’t know Courtney Ann Sanford, 32. It’s doubtful that you knew her other than seeing the story in the news or all over Facebook.
While driving to work last Thursday morning, it seems that she put a text on Facebook at 8:33, saying, “The happy song makes me HAPPY.” Less than a minute later she was dead. At 8:34 a.m. the 911 dispatcher in High Point received a call about a head-on collision on I-85.
The pictures were horrifying. The front of her red sedan was destroyed through the front seat. Responders had to cut the roof off. The front end of the truck she hit in the on-coming lane was crushed. The 75-year old truck driver walked away unharmed, thank goodness.
I knew Courtney’s parents reasonably well a few years ago, I’ve spent nights in their home. They are nice folks. I had the pleasure of meeting her on a couple of occasions. She was bright, personable and high-energy. She experienced a terrible assault as a freshman in college but pulled herself together, went back to college, joined a sorority, completed a couple of degrees and by all accounts had a happy life going, as she noted in the text. If you Google her name you’ll already see pictures of her. Those pictures and the stories will be online forever. No one, other than the folks who read her obituary, will note that according to her parents, "Courtney felt that with each passing the universe gained a new star. May her star shine bright."
What people will know is what they saw and read in today’s broad range of media. The people who write and publish those stories, even the folks who post them to Facebook, will tell you they did it to help people understand the danger of texting and driving. We get it. But, even over and above the “if it bleeds it leads” focus of the commercial news it often seems there’s a smidgen of the, “they got what was coming to them” air about the deliveries.
In one of the pictures there’s a blue tarp covering something on the ground just outside the driver’s side of Courtney’s car. I’m sure that would be what’s left of Courtney, and I’m sure whatever is under that tarp looks nothing like the pictures online. Courtney didn’t deserve—no one deserves—what she got.
We all screw up. Every day and in ways ranging from mundane to miraculous. I text while driving. I’ll tell you that I try not to do it in traffic, but that’s a rationalization. I’d like to stop, but I probably won’t. It’s just gotten too easy.
You probably do it, too.
The only real difference between us and Courtney is that we woke up this morning.