A broken mirror: Friend’s accident leaves columnist with a new view of the future

September 22, 2011 — by Christine Bancroft

This past summer, I studied at Stanford for three weeks. I took a psychology class and lived on-campus in a beautiful house with 26 other students and four counselors. It was something that, a few years ago, when I was crippled by shyness and a general social awkwardness, I would never have been able to do. But this was something new and exciting for me.

With only 31 people in the house, it was easy to force ourselves into the same room and make friends. Despite the short amount of time, we felt safe in the house—safe enough to share our secrets and hide from the dangerous outside world just a few blocks away.

By the end of the three weeks, we found ourselves scrambling to get cell phone numbers, make promises, exchange photos on Facebook and say our goodbyes. It never occurred to me that when I said goodbye to one of them, that would be the last thing I would ever say to her.

One of these girls I met and said goodbye to was—is—Kaitlyn Parra. She was hit by a drunk driver while crossing a crosswalk on Aug. 13 in her small suburban hometown near San Diego.

She has a bizarre, cheeky sense of humor. She is the editor-in-chief of her school’s newspaper; she is exceedingly intelligent; she is easily one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, inside and out. She is in a coma and has been for over a month.

I’m still not really sure how to react. It feels surreal to me, eerily reminiscent of the Los Gatos High sophomore who was hit by a car last year. I feel like Kaitlyn is so similar to me, and everyone I know. We share an equal love of the Beatles and Death Cab for Cutie and also a guilty pleasure of listening to The Fray sometimes, and loving every second of it.

She is everything I wish I was, and now she may never wake up. She is a senior. She is supposed to be at the top of the world, and nervous about college and excited about graduation and taking fast steps into adulthood. She’s just like me, I guess, but better.

To most of us, all that matters is something in the seemingly distant future—and yet, any one of us could have been the victim of a freak accident, hanging on to the precipice of life itself. Five-hundred word limits, letters of recommendation and GPAs don’t seem like much in comparison.

I have grown up, but not because I’m about to legally become an adult and graduate from high school at the end of this year, but because I have seen tragedy and its effects. I will make memories for Kaitlyn while she cannot.

Adulthood isn’t something we find by accident or stumble upon or ease into gently. It hits us in the face and knocks us to the ground, and we have to pull ourselves up little by little.

I hope you wake up soon, Kaitlyn. You will be in my thoughts until then.