Former First Lady Laura Bush has written a book in which she opens up for the first time publicly about a fatal car crash for which she was responsible when she was a teenager. The book, called "Spoken From the Heart," goes on sale early next month. But The New York Times reports it obtained a copy at a bookstore.
Bush writes about the fateful night in Midland, Texas in November 1963 when she was 17 years old. She was behind the wheel of her father's car, rushing with a friend to a drive-in theater, when she ran a stop sign and slammed into another car.
In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to earth... The whole time, I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling "Please, God. Please, God. Please, God," over and over and over again.
But the person in the other car was dead. He was Mike Douglas, who happened to be a friend of Bush's from high school.
Bush admits she and her friend were talking when she ran the stop sign. But she also suggests other factors played a role in the crash -- the pitch-black road, a dangerous intersection, the small size of the stop sign, and the car the victim was driving.
It was sporty and sleek, and it was also the car that Ralph Nader made famous in his book Unsafe at Any Speed. He claimed the car was unstable and prone to rollover accidents. A few years later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went so far as to investigate the Corvair’s handling, but it didn’t reach the same grim conclusions. I was driving my dad’s much larger and heavier Chevy Impala. But none of that would ever ease the night of November 6. Not for me, and never for the Douglases.
Bush writes that she was wracked with guilt for years afterwards. She felt particularly guilty about not going to Douglas' funeral or reaching out to his family. She said her parents didn't want her to attend the funeral.
Bush writes that she now encourages young drivers who have been in serious accidents to speak to loved ones and others.
But while I give this advice in my letters, I didn’t do any of that. Most of how I ultimately coped with the crash was by trying not to talk about it, not to think about it, to put it aside. Because there wasn’t anything I could do. Even if I tried.
In another revelation, the former First Lady writes that she suspects that she, then-President Bush and several staff members may have been poisoned during a visit to Germany for a G8 Summit in 2007. They all became mysteriously sick, and the president was bedridden for part of the trip. The Secret Service investigated the possibility of poisoning, but doctors could find no evidence, speculating they all contracted a virus. She writes:
We never learned if any other delegations became ill, or if ours, mysteriously, was the only one.