Thursday, April 29, 2010

Laura Bush, her fatal accident, a Corvair and an Impala -- her story from "Spoken from the Heart"

Hi folks -- thanks to former colleague Ed Garten for the idea. I have always like Laura Bush. She seems practical, kind, and open, and not the shrewish kind of woman so often married to politicians. But then George W. was not that much of a calculating, overly ambitious politican.

In the near future, Laura is coming out with her book, and in it she discusses what had to be one of the most difficult times in her life as an adolescent -- the involvement in an accident that was her fault that killed a fellow high school classmate. Yes, it is important to note that it doubtful that design flaw in the Corvair had anything at all to do with this accident. We try to blame technology, perhaps in an effort to soothe our souls, but in fact I doubt that the Corvair's sway bar design had anything to do with what transpired. To be sure, virtually any car of the early 1960s was far from what we would deem safe by today's standards -- seat belts, ABS, crumple zones, etc. We know that Laura was thrown from her car, but I do not know whether or not that car was equipped with seat belts. Let's face it, young drivers get it trouble, and that is what happened with Laura, as she was distracted by her conversation with a passenger.

The bigger point here is not to point fingers at either the Corvair or Laura, but to understand that as much as there are people who have a love affair with cars, there is also a flip side, one in which the car can be seen as hell on wheels, to use the title from David Blanke's recent book on auto accidents and American culture. Accidents, especially the horrific kind, leave us numb and hurt inside, and with memories that are carried with us forever. And this is the case of Laura Bush, whose few fleeting minutes in 1965 are etched in her mind to this day. Obviously, Laura came out of this with a sensitivity for others, as is exemplified in her open heart.

See account from her book:

“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,” she says. “The whole time,” she adds later, “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.”

“It was sporty and sleek, and it was also the car that Ralph Nader made famous in his book Unsafe at Any Speed,” she states. “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.”

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