When I first heard the news that a little girl had been hit and killed by a car while getting off of the school bus Wednesday, I felt sick to my stomach. I have a daughter the same age, and my heart immediately went out to the grieving mother and her family. I had little time to ponder the gut-wrenching heartache, however, because I had to be on the air with the story in just about twenty-five minutes.
In the days that followed, tearful family and friends gathered at the scene of the accident to mourn little Ashley. I turned away from the images, not wanting to imagine again what it must feel like to be her mother.
Today, I felt that same heartache again when I stood in the driveway of the 83-year-old woman charged in the incident and spoke to her husband. With tears in his eyes, and sincerity in his voice, he told me that his wife was a "very nice woman" who "loved children, all children." He said he was not just saying these things because she was his wife. He was saying them because they were true. He told me that his wife was having a very difficult time dealing with the accident.
For a moment, I took myself out of the shoes of the mother who lost a child and imagined what it would be like to be the person who accidentally took her life. In my mind, both are in some ways equally devastating. Most compassionate people could not imagine continuing to live a normal life after taking a life, especially a child's life.
It was a good reminder to me that there is a ripple effect when someone dies. It is very easy to only think about the victim, and the victim's family, but there are other people who feel pain after a tragedy like this one. The pain is like the hidden roots of a tree that spreads out in the soil in many directions It touches many people even when it is not obvious.
I hope Ashley's family can find some peace in time. I hope the driver can find some peace as well. I hope we all will travel more carefully, always mindful that it only takes a second for a tragedy like this to happen – a second that can change your life forever.