'I felt guilty for years after fatal crash'
Former First Lady Laura Bush 'lost faith' after accident that claimed friend's life
Published 29/04/2010 | 05:00
Laura Bush, the former US First Lady, has spoken for the first time about causing a car crash in which a high-school friend was killed.
In a new book, Ms Bush claimed she suffered years of guilt and lost her religious faith over the tragedy which happened when she drove through a stop sign as a teenager.
Ms Bush had previously refused to be drawn on the 1963 car crash in her hometown of Midland that claimed the life of a friend when she was only 17.
She and a girlfriend were hurrying to a drive-in cinema when, driving her father's car, she ran through a stop sign on a dark country road and hit a car being driven by Mike Douglas, also 17, a star sportsman and popular student at her school. Nobody was ever charged.
In her forthcoming memoir 'Spoken from the Heart', Ms Bush admitted she and her friend were chatting at the time but also blamed various other factors, including the darkness, the small size of the stop sign and even the handling of the victim's model of car.
"In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to earth," she said.
"The whole time I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling 'Please, God. Please, God,' over and over."
Ms Bush said her guilt over Mr Douglas's death deepened because she never attended his funeral nor contacted his parents and she said she ultimately dealt with the crash by trying not to talk or think about it.
"I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years," she said. Her prayers that her friend would live were ignored and "the only answer was the sound of Ms Douglas's sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain".
Among the other recollections in the book, there is an account of an incident in which the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall puzzled staff by asking for two glasses of ice but no drink during a visit to the White House.
Ms Bush wrote: "They requested glasses of ice before we began a long receiving line. The staff dutifully produced them, and the prince removed a flask from his pocket and added to each a small splash of what I presume was straight gin, so that they might be fortified before the hours of shaking hands."
Another revelation is her suggestion that she, George W Bush and nearly a dozen staff may have been poisoned when they went to Germany for a G8 Summit in 2007. The US president was confined to bed for part of the trip.
Doctors suspected they had contracted a virus but Ms Bush noted that a military aide still cannot walk properly and another staff member never recovered hearing in one ear.
"We never learned if any other delegations became ill," she said.
Ms Bush also took her husband's Democrat opponents to task for "calling him names".
She singled out politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and Harry Reid, the Democrat leader in the Senate, for "graceless" slurs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)