Every time you hear some ditto-monkey say the word, "Chappaquiddick,"
between now and the convention,
send them this link - and ask them what heroic action Pickles took to try to save her boyfriend.
But according to her friends it remains the key event which has shaped the character of Texas First Lady Laura Bush.
When she was 17 years old, the future wife of
Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, then known as
Laura Welch, made a mistake that killed her boyfriend.
On Nov. 5, 1963, at 8 p.m., Laura was driving
east on Farm Road 868 in her hometown of Midland en route
to a party. At a dangerous intersection, she allegedly failed to see Mike Douglas, also 17, heading south on State Road 369.
Laura, traveling with her best friend Judy Dykes
and allegedly chatting about clothes, collided with Douglas' Jeep,
which was doorless. He was thrown from the vehicle and broke his neck, dying instantly.
"She didn't see him, he didn't see her," says
Dan Harris, who also was cruising Midland that night, with
Laura's close friend Beverly Girdley.
"It was a terrible accident."
The Midland City authorities have declined to
release the full accident report. They have referred Freedom of Information
requests for release of the document to the attorney general of Texas, who has until May 15 to decide if he will make the report public.
SOURCES in Midland's City Hall say they have heard Texas Gov. George W. Bush will use his influence to make sure the report is never released.
"People here don't want that wound reopened," says Sandra Wegner, the Midland City chief librarian. "It was a nightmare for the whole town."
An abbreviated version of the report concluded neither Douglas nor Laura could be blamed for the accident.
But friends say she has never fully recovered from the tragedy.
"I don't think it has ever been far from her mind,"
says Barba Bellenger, who worked with Laura on the Richard E. Lee
High School Yearbook in 1963.
"Laura was one of the most popular girls at Lee
High. Mike was one of the most popular boys. There were people who
thought they would get married."
Jenna Welch is Laura Bush's mother and still lives
in the same house on Humble Avenue where her daughter was raised.
She recalls the tragedy like it was yesterday.
"It hurt all of us very deeply," she says remembering
her anxieties when she heard her daughter was in the hospital with
injuries from the wreck.
"Laura is an only child. It was dreadful to think she might have been killed."
MIDLAND is a small town with conservative values;
a place where everybody's business is an open book. The aftermath
of the tragic accident hung over the town for weeks.
"The students were devastated," says Annalon Glibreath,
an adviser at the school from 1962 until 1968. "Like all young kids
they thought they were immortal. Laura spoke like she thought she was invulnerable. The accident broke her heart and made
her realize life is full of as much tragedy as laughter."
Mike Douglas had moved to Midland in 1950, from
San Benito. He entered Lee High School in the same class as Laura and
quickly became a favorite with all the girls.
"He was handsome and funny," recalls Dwayne Casbeer, a pallbearer at Douglas' funeral. "He had a quality that drew people in."
Douglas, like Laura Bush, was an only child. His parents lived just to the north of Midland and were involved with ranching and oil.
"They did a great job raising Mike," says Dan Harris. "He was a wonderful young man. Mike could have gone on to do anything he wanted."
At Lee High, Mike Douglas excelled at sports,
winning places on a strong track team three years running and playing football.
He also helped organize the Powder Puff Cheerleaders.
ONE of the traditions of Texas football is an annual "powder puff" game where roles are reversed, the girls play and the boys cheer.
It was how Douglas met Laura.
"Laura's friend Judy Dykes was on the 1963 Powder Puff team and Mike was a cheerleader," says one of Douglas' best friends.
"Mike liked Judy but she was dating and introduced him to Laura instead."
Laura was a very active member of school in 1963.
Her yearbook reveals she was a member of the Junior Council, the 100 Club,
the Student Council and the Rebelee yearbook staff.
Laura's high school friends say she was not involved
with sports but had made a habit of dating the most handsome guys from
the football and track teams.
"She was a very pretty girl and as smart as a
tack," says Dan Harris, who believes most boys had a crush on the future
Mrs. George W. Bush. "She dated a lot of guys but she was never seriously involved with anyone."
In fact, Laura, like all her girlfriends, was
playing the field, looking for suitable marriage material. This, after
all, was a
different era. Young people cruised Main Street not the Internet and, especially in West Texas, women dated with little
thought it might lead to sex or the altar. In 1963, romantic life moved at a slower pace and it was at that tempo that Laura
conducted her relationship with Mike Douglas.
"She and Mike went out a few times," recalls Harris. "They went to the Agnes Diner for sodas."
HARRIS and other Lee High students from 1963 recall
everybody thought Douglas and Welch had the potential to be a
perfect couple and talked of them being nominated as Homecoming King and Queen.
"Anybody would have been lucky to get Laura," says a girlfriend who still lives in Midland. "She was very mature for her age."
"I think that appealed to all her boyfriends," says Dan Harris. "Laura never yielded to pressure, she lived her own life her own way."
By the fateful night of the accident, Laura and Mike Douglas had not been together for several months.
Harris remembers this made the crash all the more heart wrenching.
"I was out cruising with Beverly Grindley," he
says. "We heard about the accident on the radio and immediately contacted
our other friends, all of whom knew both Mike and Laura."
Laura and her friend Judy Dykes were lucky, they
only suffered minor injuries. Both were admitted to the hospital,
but released two days later.
"Laura didn't know who she had killed at first," says Dwayne Casbeer. "Nobody could bring themselves to tell her it was Mike."
By all accounts, the news hit Laura hard.
"It was pitiful," says Harris. "It took the heart and life out of her. She kind of disappeared for a few weeks."
Jenna Welch said her daughter needed careful counseling
after the accident which cast her into a deep depression that
was noticed by everybody.
"The hurt was all over her face," says a friend
who often called at the Welch household in the days after Douglas' death.
"It made Laura realize every act has consequences that cannot be escaped."
THE funeral for Douglas was held the following
Saturday. It is believed neither Laura nor her parents attended,
although they sent flowers.
Laura also helped write a poem for Douglas that appears in the 1964 yearbook.
"I can still see those eyes -- full of delight,"
it begins before recalling his confident walk and sense of fun.
In the third verse it says, "His imprint lingers in the halls, Where he walked only a while ago."
"The poem made everybody cry," says a Lee High School counselor who had just begun her career in 1963.
"After the accident, Laura became extremely subdued and you can feel that in the memorial poem."
"People were worried about her," recalls a friend who edited the 1964 yearbook with Laura.
"She withdrew from a lot of activities. She felt
responsible and she realized it could have been her that died. Some people
complained she could have done more to comfort Mike's parents but she didn't feel it was her place to intrude on their grief."
Dan Harris said Douglas' parents were knocked flat.
"Their house became a place of sadness and tears,"
he says. "They never recovered. He had filled their house with so much
energy which was suddenly snuffed out."
THE Douglases erected a memorial to their son
at Lee High. Within two years they had moved away. Laura went on to SMU
and to the University of Texas at Austin where, in 1972, she earned a master's degree in library science.
She then went to Houston where she worked as a
librarian, living in the same apartment complex as George W. Bush,
although neither of them was aware of each other.
It was not until 1977, when she was back living
in Austin as the librarian at the Dawson Elementary school, that she was
formally introduced to her future husband.
By then she was 30 and friends say she had grown
lonely and saddened that she had not yet found a man with whom to
have the children she craved.
"I think the accident was one of the reasons she stayed single so long," says Barba Bellenger. "I believe it did kind of haunt her."
And, friends say, it has made her very protective of her twin girls, Barbara and Jenna.
"She has seen what it was like for parents to
lose a young child," says Harris, who lost his daughter 11 years ago.
"That changes somebody forever."
And, like many of her friends, Harris believes
Laura Bush only survived the harrowing incident because she had such a
strong supportive family.
"They raised her to survive adversity," says her school counselor. "I think it is one reason she could make a great first lady."
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - At 17, Laura Bush ran
a stop sign and crashed into another car, killing her boyfriend
who was driving it, according to an accident report released to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Mrs. Bush is the wife of Republican presidential nominee-to-be George W. Bush (news - web sites), the Texas governor.
``It was a very tragic accident that deeply affected
the families and was very painful for all involved, including
the community at large,'' said her spokesman, Andrew Malcolm. ``To this day, Mrs. Bush remains unable to talk about it.''
According to the two-page accident report released
Wednesday by the city of Midland, Laura Welch was
driving her Chevrolet sedan on a clear night shortly after 8 p.m. on Nov. 6, 1963, when she drove into an
intersection and struck a Corvair sedan driven by 17-year-old Michael Douglas.
Although previous news accounts have reported
Douglas was thrown from the car and broke his neck,
those details were not in the report.
The speed of Laura Bush's car was illegible on the report. The speed limit for the road was 55.
Neither driver was drinking, the police report said.
Laura Bush and her passenger, Judy Dykes, also
17, were taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries,
according to an accident account printed at the time in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.
The police report indicates no charges were filed. That section of the report was left blank.
``As far as we know, no charges were filed,''
said Midland city attorney Keith Stretcher.
``I don't think it's unusual that charges weren't filed.''
The police report was released after an open records
request was submitted to Midland officials in March.
City officials had declined to release the records because the victims were under 18.
What's the odds of running a stop sign and killing
...and what if Hillary had done such a thing?
Rush the vulgar junkie's head would explode with glee if it had been Hilary.
INDICT LAURA BUSH!
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