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Being young can lead to such tragedies

The skies were clear over Texas on that Wednesday night nearly a half century ago.

Laura Welch and Judy Sykes, 17, were headed to a party in a Chevrolet sedan. Laura, who had turned 17 that Monday, drove.

Laura and Judy gaily talked about boys or whatever else teenage girls talked about in the final months before Beatlemania struck America.

A Corvair headed down the road that intersects the road Laura was driving.

Her friend, Michael Douglas, 17, the most popular junior at their high school, drove the Corvair. Laura and Michael had once dated.

Traveling in a car behind Michael was his father.

Laura missed a stop sign.

The intersection was a two-way stop, meaning there was no reason for Michael to stop.

Their cars collided. He was thrown from the car and broke his neck. Officials pronounced Michael dead on arrival at Midland Memorial Hospital.

Laura and Judy escaped serious physical injury, but the events of the night would live with them the rest of their lives.

Years later, Laura revealed that she prayed so hard for Michael to live that when he died, she stopped believing in God for many years.

I thought about the death of Michael Douglas when I read about the death of Drew Morton, 14, a George Washington High School football player.

His friend and teammate, Reed Deer, 15, was driving his parents' Lexus convertible along Quarry Ridge Road on a sunny Sunday morning.

Reed lost control of the vehicle and crashed. Like Laura Welch, he escaped unharmed. Drew was not buckled in and he was thrown from the car. He died.

I suppose I should point out that we were all young and foolish once. We all make mistakes.

One night in Germany, I hit black ice and did a 360 on a bridge. I hit nothing and stayed on the road. I drove on without a pause. But I still remember that night.

Maybe I was lucky.

A foot here or there and I might have been the centerpiece of a three-paragraph wire story headlined: "Soldier killed."

Actually two. Both were buckled in. I won't put a car in gear unless everyone is buckled in.  

Reed Deer faces criminal charges.

Laura Welch did not. She did not even receive a traffic citation.

That boggles the mind. I do not know why authorities did not hold her accountable for her actions, which led to the tragic death of a bright young man.

I do know that Laura Welch got her act together, graduated from school, and went on to college and graduate school.

She became a librarian and married the man who would later become the 43rd president, George W. Bush.

I am sure she lives with the death of Michael Douglas every day of her life. Since Nov. 6, 1963, she has lived for two people.

She seems to have lived those lives well.

Being young can be a tragedy.

Surber may be reached at don


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