Apr 27, 2009

Via AJC.com:

The Johnsons recalled the crash Friday afternoon in Tracie's room at Grady Memorial Hospital. She had just finished a therapy session on her two broken legs and managed to smile while summoning nurses to bring pain medication. The fractured bones have required surgically implanted rods. Her hip has a pin. Her heel is fractured. Her collarbone broken. A smiley face balloon and one wishing "Get Well" floated behind her bed.

The Johnsons met in elementary school and have been together since going to see the movie "Endless Love" in 1981. They waited to get married until after they finished college, her at Spelman and him at Georgia State.

On Friday, the couple conferred with a stream of people about the next stage of their lives — including home health-care aides, rehab specialists and investigators from the district attorney's office. In between, the Johnsons talked about the events of Easter Sunday.

Tracie agreed to drive home the car of Carolyn Waller, her friend and the pastor's wife, because the Wallers were headed to Macon on a family emergency involving a car accident.

Just ahead of Tracie, in the Johnsons' Lexus SUV, her husband, Morris, noticed a commotion from the corner of his eye.

Police say the BMW switched lanes into the Carters' Mercedes, forcing the two cars to spin across the median and into oncoming lanes.

"I didn't see the bump but I saw the cars entering the median," Morris recalled. "My concern was to get by it. I was hoping she'd get by it."

He glanced in the rear-view mirror. Tracie was farther back than he thought.

He heard an explosion.

Tracie never saw the Mercedes until the end.

"It was instantaneous," she said. "There was nothing there and then it was there. Boom. It was just there coming up out of the median."

The Mercedes slammed into the front of the Beetle, almost fusing the two vehicles together, Morris recalled. The Mercedes was ablaze, and Tracie's door would not open as he and bystanders feverishly tried to get in.

"I felt the heat," she said. "I had to lie down on the passenger side to get away from it. I knew my legs were broken. They were just hanging there."

Rescue crews finally pulled Tracie to safety. Her daughter, however, never had a chance, Morris said. She died from severe trauma to her midsection, where the lapbelt was secured.

Asked about the BMW driver, Tracie Johnson closed her eyes.

Police say Aimee Michael fled the scene, hid the damaged car in a garage and finally told her family what had happened after two days. Authorities say the car had been repaired.

"The lack of compassion of leaving the scene and having parents that don't tell you to do the right thing and turn yourself in, that's what's so disheartening," Tracie Johnson said. "It's basic morality.

"I'll pray for that family."


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