Courtney.

by Beth Anne on April 27, 2014

“Kim? Kim, it’s Beth Anne. What happened?”

My voice caught on the phone with my college roommate, Kim. We hadn’t spoken on the phone in 8 years & she was the first person I called when I saw the update, that Courtney Sanford was gone. Ten years ago, Kim & I shared bunk beds in a 20×20 cinder block room on our sorority hall, where our “big sisters” helped us study & taught us to be ADPi’s.

Courtney was Kim’s big sister & with one Facebook message, she crossed the median on Business 85 & she was gone.

courtney2 Courtney.

I spent Thursday night on the phone with my sorority sisters, trying to understand. The person in the accident is never supposed to be someone you know, someone you wrapped your arms around, someone that made you laugh. But this time, it was.

courtney3 Courtney.

I saw her story shared on Facebook by my sisters, then by people that didn’t know Courtney. It was hard to see her crumpled red car every time I opened my laptop. I clicked to Buzzfeed & the girl I knew stared back at me in black & white as the top story. I refused to read the comments & I put my head in my hands & cried.

I felt violated that my friend was now public property even though I wished desperately for others to take the warning.

courtney1 Courtney.

I saw the “FAIL” over her face & a piece of my heart broke further. I remember Courtney outside of the accident, like the Facebook status & wreck happened to someone different, & yet the FAIL makes it impossible to separate my friend from the truth of the accident.

What happened is bullshit & Courtney would agree because she loved to call people on bullshit.

courtneyba Courtney.

Courtney was beautiful & flawed & loved, just like all of us. She made a bad choice & paid with her life. Don’t post her story to mock her, but to raise awareness because we’ve all done what she did & maybe it wasn’t a Facebook status, but a text or grabbing a drink that rolled on the floor. I don’t care how many times you’ve done it successfully before – STOP NOW. You are human & distracted, just like Courtney.

People love you & would miss you, just like Courtney.

adpi1 Courtney.

As her family & friends & our Zeta Psi chapter grieve for her, please let this be a reminder that you are more precious than any Facebook status or text. Please put down the phone. It can always wait.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Krystina April 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm

BA, I’m so sorry. How quickly we forget the danger of cells and driving. I hope people remember your friend was loved and had family and friends who cared for her. I’m praying for peace and comfort to all who knew and loved her.

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Kristen April 27, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I saw the story on Gawker (and was disgusted by most of the comments), and went to look up Courtney on Facebook to see what she looked like. I was shocked to see we had a mutual friend, and then so saddened to realize it was you. I’m very sorry for your loss, and this definitely reinforces to me that I need to leave my phone zipped up in my purse while I’m driving. Nothing on it is more important than my life or the lives of people on the road with me. Thank you for writing about this.

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Molly April 27, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Nearly two years ago, I lost a dear friend in the Aurora theater shooting. She was the first victim identified and for a full day, her name was everywhere. In two years, I have never been able to sum up what you so simply and accurately stated: “I felt violated that my friend was now public property.” It’s a unique pain to not only lose someone but to lose them in such a public way. I am so sorry you are going through this and so sorry for the added element of seeing her face so many places–seeing people’s opinions of her when they never even knew her. I am confident your friend’s death is going to save so many lives. I know it doesn’t now but hopefully someday that will help ease your grief a bit.

xo.

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Beth Anne April 28, 2014 at 10:18 am

Yes. Thank you for understanding exactly what I meant & at the same time, I am so sorry that you do understand. I am so sorry for your own equally senseless loss.

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christina April 27, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I hadnt’ heard the story until right now. You hear the stories, you roll your eyes like a night before prom teen looking at the MADD car crumpled in front of your school and think ” it won’t happen to me”
This is palpable. not because I in any way knew Courteney, but because I see how her loss is your pain and it’s a true eye opener. I’m so sorry. I promise to try to be a more responsible driver

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Amy April 27, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Love you.

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Kim Mallicoat Davis April 27, 2014 at 11:06 pm

Beautifully written

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Blythe McDonnell April 27, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Great post Beth Anne. I hate that her tragic story is all over the internet and it makes me sick to read the terrible things people are writing about her. We all make dumb mistakes. Courtney was a sweet person who made a poor choice and it cost her her life. Why can’t people just leave it at that? My thoughts and prayers go out to Courtney’s family and everyone lucky enough to have known and loved her.

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Nikki April 28, 2014 at 4:39 am

So terribly sorry for your loss and all those who knew Courtney.

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Ashley April 28, 2014 at 5:32 am

Perfect post. :)

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Laura-Kathryn April 28, 2014 at 5:46 am

BA-

thank you for this, its perfectly written.

LK

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marisa April 28, 2014 at 6:39 am

I am so sorry for your lost…hope you and your family can find some sort of peace in your friend’s(sister’s) passing.

Marisa

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Toni :O) April 28, 2014 at 8:15 am

Thank you for the reminder to leave our darn phones alone while driving. We all need more pouncing over the head on this. So very sorry for your loss, just so awfully sad.

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Steph April 28, 2014 at 8:20 am

I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful post.

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Suz April 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

Hugs! So sorry for you & your sisters loss.

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Hnsanford April 28, 2014 at 9:17 am

Thank you Beth Anne! I will share this with her brother (my husband). He is very aware of what is out there but will not read.

Pi love,
Heather Nunn Sanford

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Beth Anne April 28, 2014 at 10:16 am

I hurt so badly for you, Heather. Pi love.

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Suzy Goodwin April 28, 2014 at 9:37 am

Thank you for sharing. This is the best write up of this tragedy out there- a reminder of her real legacy. Much love as you begin the healing process.

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Robin April 28, 2014 at 11:26 am

I can marginally imagine the pain you and everyone connected is feeling with everything being splashed over the news and people constantly judging, it’s happened quite a few times over the past 12 years to me and people I know. At first you want to argue with everyone and show them who the person was because they are making snap judgments on people they don’t know, when they are guilty of it themselves, just like you said in this post, it doesn’t have to be facebook, it can be as simple as a drink, for my boyfriend and I just this Saturday it was the charger for the phone and we ended up rear-ending someone on the way to a friends wedding. Anything can happen in a split second and our loved ones are taken from us. Or us from them. I am horrible about this, I am not even going to lie, I text and drive and I try to say I’m smart about it but there is no “smart” way to text and drive, your strength in writing this so soon after, in hopes of raising the awareness of the issue, not because you want to attack the people who are attacking her…there is no excuse. And from now on, i’m pledging I won’t be doing it.

I am deeply sorry for the world’s loss of Courtney, and wish everyone impacted by this tragedy love and healing.

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Jenny Peet April 28, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Beth Anne,
As always you seem to capture the many emotions involved and are able to translate them so perfectly into written word. I keep replaying the song in my head…’one day a hush will fall, the footsteps of us all, will echo down the hall and disappear’. I’m not sure I’ve yet grasped the true reality of it. Love you Sister and the bond we share. Thank you for this beautifully written piece. Pi love, and all mine.

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Heather B. April 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I’m sorry for your loss. I have seen the articles (and horrible comments – you are right to not look). I saw your blog and was surprised to see that you knew her. It does make her seem more like a real person. What a horrible tragedy.

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Jess April 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm

BA, I’m so sorry for you all to be going through this. Even more sorry that she is just a story in the news for people to click over. But I thank you for sharing this another reminder why it can wait. xo

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Arnebya April 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I’m so sorry, hon. I have purposely not clicked on the photo because I have too many issues with death by car already so it does me no good. We are all human, we all make mistakes. And you’re right: the mistake makers are people too, and having her story out of the hands of those who love her is unfortunate. Thank you for writing about her, because you never know who will read this and remember the next time s/he is behind the wheel.

I miss you.

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Amanda April 28, 2014 at 6:39 pm

I am so deeply sorry for your loss. You have mustered incredibly powerful words in response,a tragic, yet commendable tribute.

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Melissa {Blog Clarity} April 28, 2014 at 10:03 pm

I saw her story on the news and thought, wow, that could be any of us. While I don’t text and drive, I have messed around with Siri when she doesn’t know what the heck I’m talking about and stuff like that. Whether a text or a Siri argument, it all boils down to being a distraction.

I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and can only hope it’s a mighty wake up call for many.

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Annie Connors April 29, 2014 at 12:03 am

Pi love from a current Zeta Psi sister. We are praying for all of our sisters who knew Courtney and her family as well

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Tarah April 29, 2014 at 10:25 am

I am so sorry for your loss. I truly am. I hope that this story is a wake up call to everyone who reads it.

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Allison April 29, 2014 at 9:49 pm

I actually started reading this yesterday while I was driving. Didn’t get too far before I put my phone down and focused on driving. I never touch my phone while my son is in the car with me, but I guess it’s time to make the same rule for myself. Thank you for the wake up call, but I am extremely sorry for your loss. The sharing of your/her story will hopefully save lives.

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Suzanne April 30, 2014 at 4:27 pm

So, so sorry. Lots of love to you.

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Violet May 2, 2014 at 5:51 pm

This post grosses me out more than the media coverage. You haven’t talked to the woman in 8 years yet you devote a post about how it affected you? Talk a violating someone’s memory for blog hits.

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Beth Anne May 2, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Hi, Violet. I wish I could say something kind along the lines of appreciating your opinion but frankly, I don’t.

Courtney & I lived together for three years. I saw her EVERY DAY for three years. I knew her well. I laughed with her, cried with here, celebrated with her. She was a big part of my life, much like all of my sorority sisters. Our chapter was small – 60 women – & we all knew each other well. Thankfully, I’ve been able to stay a part of all of my sisters lives through Facebook, Instagram, & our group email. Technology is a beautiful thing when we live hours apart from each other.

So yes, her death did affect me. Yes, I wrote about how I hurt, just as my sisters wrote about it on other social media platforms, just as people wrote in the comments of news articles, the same way two of Courtney’s friends spoke to the press. It affected all of her friends.

My purpose in writing this post was not for blog hits. It was to have something out there about Courtney that wasn’t calling her an idiot or mocking her. I sat on the post for days before hitting publish, wondering if I was adding to the feelings I shared in the post. But I hoped that by publishing, it was a way for someone that loved her to tell her story rather than have it solely in the hands of the media, who have completely dehumanized her. It was something to share that had her smiling face & not her crumpled red car.

I am sure that I have not changed your opinion of me.

I wish you the best & despite your distaste for me, I hope that you take away the main points of the post – that Courtney was a good woman & to put down the cell phone.

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christina May 5, 2014 at 10:48 am

This post grosses you out, but not because a young woman was torn from her friends and family too early but because Beth Ann shared her story and her connection? Really? Get your shit together. What the eff

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missMaegan May 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Thank you for writing about your beautiful friend. I was blown away by the mean comments here and on the other sites. Your friend passed away and that is a horrible hurt . I know I’ve been there. 13 years ago and it still hurts like hell. You are a testament to her life. You will remember. You will talk and write about her. Because you are a good friend.

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ky May 12, 2014 at 5:18 pm

I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my Mom tragically in a car accident 8 months ago and seeing it play out on news websites and the news was beyond painful. I get it. I’m so sorry.

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Beth Anne May 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

Ky, I am so sorry. So, so sorry. Thinking of you.

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ky May 19, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Thank you. And Likewise.

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Robin May 12, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Dear Beth Anne, 23 years ago I lost a friend I’d known since kindergarten. We were seniors in high school when she died in a tragic accident with 3 others from our school. Had social media been around at the time I can only imagine what the fallout would have been like. She has been gone 11 years longer than I knew her and yet the pain of losing my friend is still so deep in my heart, and I have never forgotten my friendship with her, my love for her and what she meant to me. I do not believe what you did by posting this was inappropriate. You put a beautiful face to a story that most of us just read about and heard joked about. You made it real, and you brought it home and I for one am incredibly thankful for the humble reminder that we are all at risk, that we all matter to someone and your love for her is a beautiful tribute to the person she was and will continue to live on to be in the hearts of those who love her.
You are in my prayers, as are all those who loved and cared for Courtney at ALL phases of her life.
With all my love and sincere sorrow for your loss,
Robin~

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Beth Anne May 13, 2014 at 9:23 am

Robin, I am so sorry for your loss. I am so sorry that you went through that pain.

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TwicetheSparkle May 16, 2014 at 9:33 am

Every time I heard the song “Happy,” I think of your friend and I think of you. I think of how you’ll never be able to hear that song without remembering the tragic accident that took your friend’s life. And the song is everywhere. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that such a happy, popular song has to be all up in your face as your grieve your friend. Thinking of you!

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ZW May 19, 2014 at 11:51 am

I am so very sorry for your loss.

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