Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Savannah Smiles

Certain Wednesdays are "work from home" days, where I try to avoid the 74 degree weather outside and concentrate on getting work done. I'm usually unsuccessful.

I figured it was a good time to see a dietician this afternoon due to my cholesterol, which is abominable. (See earlier post about the Garbage Plate for documentation.) So today I was cruising the web and catching up on nutrition facts and ways to keep in shape. My 32-year old gut is expanding, my hair's turning gray, I'm having a hard time hearing people, and an hour of tossing a frisbee on Sunday has made me ache for the last 3 days. I'm getting old and crotchety.

Anyway...upon the crests and troughs of my surfing session, one thing led to another and I found myself on YouTube, as usual. I'm planning a trip to Grand Cayman, so I searched for some footage of it. This led to footage of Savannah, Cayman; then to random footage of Savannah, Georgia; and then to a blurry screencap of a girl with sun flares in the lens, titled "Savannah Watson, Forever in Our Hearts."

Say what you want about tribute videos -- they're usually poorly done, painful to watch, and usually accompanied by the thoroughly depressing hits of Bette Midler or Boys II Men. But I always have to watch them. And this one was different.

It's not a photo montage. It's video footage of a teenage girl at a playground in late afternoon, holding the camera at arms length, spinning around. And she's smiling, and Nick Drake's singing softly, and it's heartbreaking. She's probably sixteen or seventeen, with a smile that only teenage girls can conjure. At the end, she walks away and the picture fades to white.

It was so real that I figured it was made up. I decided to Google her and figure out what happened. First, I came across a news piece from 2005 in which she and her mother are interviewed. Apparently, she was friends with a girl who lived next door who was held captive and abused by the girl's father for over a year.

After that, I found the story about her accident. She was in the passenger seat of a Toyota 4-Runner in Arizona at 4:30 on a Monday morning with her friend Heather, who was nineteen. She lost control, crossed the median, and was hit by another truck. They died, and the two men in the truck lived. She was fifteen.

It was real, then. I found her friend's MySpace page with a tribute to her, then Savannah's MySpace page with messages from her friends over the last year. At this point it was hard not to feel like I was going too far, finding out too much information about her, invading her privacy - which wasn't hers anymore. YouTube and Google and MySpace had seen to that.

There was one last page. It was from the girl who did her eulogy, and it's all about regrets. She explains that the driver of the car was on Ecstasy. She says that Savannah "was a great, sincere, honest person, which our world seems to be sincerely lacking," and that "she will never know what it's like to get a drivers license, live in the dorms, get married, and have children."

She urges us to tell people how much we love them. "You never know when it'll be too late," she says.

Life can beat us down and turn us into shapes we don't recognize, but we manage to eke out some good times. There's no doubt about that. So for everyone out there who's shared these times - and beatings - with me, I love ya. And don't ever let me bitch about getting older.


Sara J. Allen said...

Whoa. That is possibly one of my favorite things about life, the infinite amount of stories that one pulled thread can bring. Youtube is a playground of lives and stories.

I once googled my name and found this really long crime report about an aboriginal woman named Sara Johnson who was murdered in a coastal town in Australia. The crime report basically read like a story idea for a miniseries with drugs, sex, and numerous shady characters who might have murdered Sara on the beach.

The crime was never solved, but I must have spent hours reading the news articles and that crime report feeling some intense link with something that happened half a world away.

Toothpaste Jones said...

Somewhere in the ginormous pile of unshelved, unorganized books behind me, there's a copy of The Best American Crime Writing 2004. The first story was called something like "The Cheerleaders", and the story of Savannah was completely mirrored by this true story until the part where the driver was on ecstacy. So until that detail, my heart was up in my throat, making this creepy connection between this story and reality. Well, thankfully, I don't have to be completely haunted by that. Just by Savannah's.

Anonymous said...

Hi....i just wanted to say that Savannah was my older sister. the last time i saw her she was four years old..and this blog helped me find out more about her life, and her accident. thank you so much.
Love, Daryn Watson