And then she was dead. Ejected through a windshield and pronounced dead on the pavement of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, amid broken glass and unlived expectations.
It is so rare that we are affected by what we expect. Much more often it is what blindsides us on an otherwise anonymous trip home.
Ciara Deprill was born on Aug. 20, 1986. Less than 7,000 days later, in the dark and forgotten morning hours of Feb. 3, 2006, she had other places to be.
It became a story. Deprill was riding shotgun with Dreamah Knoll, who was driving with a blood alcohol level a few ticks over the legal limit. They were coming back to the city, going westbound on the Ben Franklin. Those lanes can seem so narrow. A concrete barrier can change so many things.
Deprill is gone, but what might be worse is the risk of losing Knoll. There is no pain like the pain of those who survive. Those who are granted the privilege of living with unwarranted guilt and irreversible anguish.
Just three days after the tragedy and hours beyond a stint in critical condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Knoll had something to say and chose a voice of increasing power to say it. She sat down just after 10 p.m. on Feb. 6, signed into her Facebook account and wrote a letter. To Ciara. To the world. To herself.
“It just kills me inside,” she wrote. “I hope the angels are making u pork chops with rice and beans up there.”
“I know how much u loved them.”
Knoll tried to put into words what cannot be put into words.
“I so badly want to let your family know how sorry I feel for them right now.”
Call the parents of the best friend you’ve ever had and apologize for witnessing their child’s death.
Knoll, herself, has other places to be. After the accident, she was charged with driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter. In December 2007, she was convicted of the first and exonerated of the last two.
Now she waits. Her sentencing has been postponed until after this semester. You see, Knoll, now a 23-year-old biology major, is set to graduate this May. In celebration, she could get a 90-day sentence, 90 days to think about the accident that killed her best friend.
Deprill was from Allentown, Knoll from South Philly. They met at a fraternity party. They worked together at a nightclub in Old City.
“U quickly became one of my best friends I have ever had. I was so happy to have someone here that I really connected with,” Knoll wrote after the incident. “It was such a relief to finally have a true friend at Temple.”
I do not know what remained then. But now, Knoll has a life to rebuild and recover. She’ll graduate and take on her sentencing. She’ll move on. Without Ciara.
Christopher Wink can be reached at email@example.com.