Wednesday, May 28, 2008
It's Up to Ariel Now
(Hayden, AL) So you think you’ve had a rough day? Or week? Or year? Hopefully it has not been as rough as it has been on the families and friends of three teenage girls who were killed in an automobile wreck near here about six months ago. And hopefully not as rough as it has been on the four teenage occupants that survived that horrific accident.
I met one of those girls tonight. A co-worker and I stopped in a Barbeque restaurant off I-65 north of Birmingham to get a bite to eat. When I walked in the door of the restaurant I noticed a picture on the wall of a very cute girl who was a former employee. There was also a plaque as well as a couple of jerseys hanging on the wall.
When we sat down at our table a very cute waitress by the name of Ariel walked up to our table and said she would be taking care of us. Before we could say “iced tea,” I asked her about the girl named Courtney Nicely I had just read about when I walked in the restaurant.
Ariel’s expression changed quickly as soon as I asked the question. She began to tell us the story of seven cheerleaders from Hayden High who were returning from cheerleader competition practice last November. The girls were singing and dancing and enjoying being girls when the car suddenly went off the road, hit a tree and went down a steep bank. The three girls in the front seat lived. Three of the four girls in the back seat died.
Ariel was in the backseat.
Ariel went on to tell us that she and Courtney were best friends – joined at the hip. Ariel had back surgery as a result of that accident and although you would never know it by the way she walks and works, she told us she still experiences pain.
It is also obvious she experiences other pain that has nothing to do with her back.
But Ariel has chosen to keep moving and live her life – in spite of this heart wrenching tragedy. She plans on attending the University of Alabama in the fall. When she gets there she will find that she has a different perspective from most college freshmen. And that perspective was learned the most difficult way one can be taught.
I don’t know what else Ariel will have to face in life but I have a feeling she will be able to handle most anything thrown at her.
Ariel told me that she and Courtney did the announcements at school every morning. I read tonight that Courtney always signed off on the PA with these words; “Go out and have a great day!” She would pause and add these words; “Or not. It is up to you.”
There is no doubt that Courtney’s words are ringing in Ariel’s ears these days. And she is heeding her late best friend’s advice.
It's up to Ariel now. And I have a feeling that one day at a time, Ariel is choosing to have a great day.
God be with her. And God be with the parents, the families and all the friends of those who died.