Anna Kaspar reflects on September 5 car accident

“It hit us side-on really fast…a car that just came out of nowhere,” sophomore Anna Kaspar said. “There was a huge jolt and glass shattered.” The impact broke all windows in the car, and the door closest to Kaspar was so jammed it took rescue workers 40 minutes to open. “Kaitlin’s seat was [tilted] way back. Cathy’s leg and Morgan were trapped…Kaitlin was moaning and lying there, bent in weird ways. Sarah was hunched over the steering wheel…Morgan was crying silently to herself. Me and Cathy started crying and screaming,” Kaspar said. “Thoughts were racing and I was thinking, ‘My God, I can’t believe this is actually happening to us.’ “We couldn’t get Kaitlin to make any sounds. Sarah, at one point, moved, but she was mostly unconscious and not responding. “Sarah Gutowski was giving us a ride…it was the best time ever. We were taking crazy pictures in the back seat, laughing, talking. “It is a cross-country tradition to dress wildly on Wednesday—a practice known as “Wacky Wednesday. “Me, Kaitlin, Sarah and Cathy—we all had hair dye. Kaitlin had pink, Cathy had green, and I had mixtures of both. We had huge, crazy hairstyles, fishnets and brightly-colored spandex. I was wearing ‘Caution’ tape on my forehead. “We came to a stop sign…there was a car coming out of it, but I guess [Sarah] didn’t see. She was driving, Kaitlin was sitting in shotgun, I was behind Sarah, Cathy in the middle and Morgan right behind Kaitlin. At the time, I was talking to Cathy and Morgan when a car came from the right. Cathy didn’t know what had happened, but since I was facing that direction, I actually saw the car come and hit us.” According to the Ames Tribune, at around 5:25 p.m. on Sept. 5th, an eastbound car on Lincoln Highway struck the southbound car on 580th Ave. carrying Kaspar and four other sophomore members of the cross-country team en route to a spaghetti dinner. The Story County Sheriff’s Department reported that the southbound car failed to yield to a stop sign. Regardless of the collision, Kaspar felt little regret. “If this is the way I die, I wouldn’t have chosen to die in any better way because we were all just so happy…Four of my best friends…” Soon after the crash, bystanders and the drivers behind her rushed to the scene. Paramedics arrived 10 minutes later. “Somebody came out of a brick building and they ran over to us. Eventually the other people from cross-country that were going there, like [cross-country coach] Schmaltz, came maybe four or five minutes afterwards. “Sarah eventually came conscious and she got out of the car…you see Kaitlin lying there. Me and Cathy were really scared and held close to each other because no one else knew what was happening. At the time, we were just in our own little world. Kaspar was the farthest away from the collision and therefore suffered the fewest injuries. “I have a scar on my leg from where the glass cut me. I was only cut up and bruised—like shaken and everything—I was just emotionally upset.” Later that night, along with Morgan Ferry and Cathy Pastiak, Kaspar was released from Mary Greeley. Kaitlin Estill was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center, listed in serious condition, and Sarah Gutowski was transferred to Blank Children’s Medical Center, both in Des Moines. The paramedics and medical staff weren’t very comforting, according to Kaspar. “They were asking the same questions, and there was so much on my mind. They said, ‘It’s going to be okay,’ but I kept thinking, ‘Where are my friends? I need to know right now. I need to know that she’s okay I need to be with them.’ They said, ‘Lay down, honey, you’re in shock.’” Although she had strong emotional support from those she trusted, it was hard hearing all the rumors that had circulated following her return to school the following Monday. “People were making up stories like ‘the whole cross-country bus was on the way to a dinner or something and they got hit, but those were the only five that were injured.’ We heard stories about how the car flipped and people were ejected from it or the car caught on fire. I thought a lot of people were using their ‘knowledge’ of this accident to get attention…people who don’t even care about us, people we weren’t good friends with were crying, ‘Oh, I’m so sad about it.’ I guess that sounds kind of mean and insensitive, but everyone was just doing it to get attention. This is serious. It’s not something you should do that to.” Against great adversity, Estill returned to Ames High in November, changing her original plans of resuming studies at home while in rehabilitation. Gutowski had been released earlier. “It’s not really affecting me now that everyone’s out of the hospital and back to nor-mal…but I still do have nightmares about it. I still do think about it when I try to get asleep at night. I still do have, a little once in a while, breakdowns. If I’m keeping busy, doing normal things, it’s not a huge presence or at least not as much as it was before,” Kaspar said. “For the most part, everything’s back to normal. “My friends have always been my number one priority, but this just kind of reinforced that to the extreme…just like how much I loved them. I feel a strong bond with the other people that were in the car with me, definitely a bond I don’t have with anyone else.”