Exam Fails, Crinkle Perms & Florence Nightingale (8-14 June)

Monday 8/6/87

Well, it’s 8:55 and I have not quite finished my biology study. Almost, though. I have done no chemistry or history of art study; so I’ll fail for sure. Did nothing besides study today (except break for a walk to the shop with Jules this arvy) But the reason I didn’t get all done was because I mucked around doing little things; wasting time. [Procrastination. It’s my forte.] sunny today. Am tired, but had 9hrs sleep last night. Wonder what time mark will get home tonight? I don’t think he’ll go to school tomorrow. Oh, these bloody exams! 3 tomorrow.. there’s no use. I’ll fail! Been thinking a fair bit (not much) but; I think Mark does get bored with me. I really do. Sometimes. I think he’s sick of me, or he’s afraid to spend time alone with me. I don’t know. I’d love to talk with him again, soon. A Life in Words(Fat, fat, fat! I ate a lot of crap today) Julia & I had a 100’s & 1000’s fight. YUKKY!

Tuesday 9/6/87

Ha, ha, ha! I failed chem. for sure.. could not do one thing (well that’s a lie: I got Q1 right!) But my bio study paid off!! I found (an otherwise hard) test easy . . and Hist. of art – I fluked (& cheated just a little) that will be easy enough to pass. So that was my day, really. Mark didn’t come, as I’d thought.. Keith told me he said at night “Wish I was home ..missing Elissa”. How beautiful! […hmm, how gullible…] I rang him (during dinner – so rang back ∼15 mins. later) barely talked at all – disappointing. [Not missing you so much now, huh?] He sounded tired. I’m glad he’s back. That’s 5 days I haven’t seen him. Oh, I thought I’d never make it! This arvy Cameron was at his dad’s – driving! (went past our house at least 10 times!) FUNNY!! Hotter, finer today. Wore my hair “crinkled” to school – twisted sections [and tied with rags, see the pic to left for an idea] last night- slept with them & this morning my hair was crinkly! Wore it in a piggy tail – looked horrible down, A Life in Wordsbut now it’s died down a bit .. looks good .. gives my hair lots of body. Am thinking of getting my hair crinkle-permed now! [Noooo! Perms are bad enough, let alone ‘crinkle’ …ugh, you just said it “looked horrible down”!] Skin is clearing up fast, too!

Wednesday 10/6/87

Well, Mark was very quiet today ..bored, he said. [And we all know what I would have been thinking, after Monday’s rumination…] So I didn’t talk to him very much… biology before art… big lunch, then a little at weight training (speaking of which, at aerobics I felt so good! Excellent workout! Sweaty, but I felt no aching or fatigue after it – just hot.) [See? It really isn’t that hard to make fitness gains.] Mark rang me tonight, however, and we talked a lot about careers, ambitions etc. he wants me to spend nights at his place on the holidays (if he doesn’t go to Brisbane – hope he doesn’t.) Wonder if ..if I’ll take the plunge? Go all the way? I’d like to, but it’s complicated [of course. And scary.]. .anyway. . I’ve done no HW: and my bio assignment is due tomorrow I’ll have to make it up & write it tomorrow. I’m riding tomorrow.. I think; mum bought me a padlock for my chain. A Life in WordsI’ll ride on my own; I don’t care – I need the exercise …I’m almost 65kg. That’s terrible! [Yes, disgusting! After all, at 176cm in height, that means you’re almost exactly in the middle of the Normal/Healthy Weight Range. Pffft.] I have to lose 10kg for the formal! (And for Mark) & the holidays!! [Isn’t it sad how susceptible we are to socially-imposed ideals? Or more accurately, that our Ego-based self-image can be so …weak? How did I think emaciating myself would enrich my experience at the formal? And would that really make my boyfriend love me more? (From memory he never once referred to my body in a negative context.) I can’t even begin to fathom what I thought losing weight ‘for the holidays’ would yield…] Oh I’m tired.. but can’t sleep in: it’s annoying. Got chem. mark – 6/30 TERRIBLE. Must spend a lot more time on chem. & maths… chem, mostly. have got to do well. [Ha!]

Thursday 11/6/87

I rode! Left at 8:15 (heaps of head-wind; shit!) got to school about 8:35! :Hot & sweaty & very “drained” of energy (tired) Mark came late. We got on quite (very) well today! My painting of him is (believe it or not) progressing very well! A Life in Words(ie: it’s not half bad) – in fact I’m bloody proud of it! He has not much comment on it! [Uh-huh. I can sort of imagine some reasons why…] After school, I waited for him at our area (giving my bag to mum) with Cameron: then we went to the bike racks- not there either. .walking back Mr. Stopford said he & Steven were in the gym. Cameron & I stayed (waiting) for about 30 mins ..then left (Mark & Steven kept playing & playing..) [playing and playing what?] Fairly speedy (hot!) ride home. Rang him tonight & we talked for ¾hr. Going to see Burglar tomorrow night. he said he would stay at my place on the holidays! (he’s not going to Brisbane – yay!!) WOWEE! Oh, I’m tired. Maths exam Tuesday, then eng then bio ..then chem (ugh!) then HOLIDAYS HOORAY!! Holidays soon! And I can’t wait! SO tired.

Friday 12/6/87

Got to school-Mark was sick. Barely talked to me before school.. double eng. boring & set ..he nicked off somewhere (Coles) with Steven during little lunch & didn’t talk to me at big lunch. I wondered if he really was sick ..sick of me only. [Definitely the theme for this week…] But after school, he said he’d ring me. I had to go by bus- just the afternoon I need mum to pick me up & she doesn’t: I had a gigantic masonite board with my painting paper taped to it, to take home. Ugh! Very tired today. My art (Mark is O.K. but I don’t know how to improve on it – what to do next – I’ve worked on his skin (facial tones) a lot & I’m afraid I’ll overdo it – but it looks a lot like him. Must get it finished.) [With an eye for detail, much of my art leaned towards ‘Photo-Realism’…] when Mark rang, we talked a little – it’s a headache – on & off again, but intense when “on” [oh.. talking about his sickness… I thought for a second this was a general comment on our relationship!] we decided no movies. And I went to his place. And played “nurse” & “maid”. A Life in Words[So totally NOT what you’re thinking!] Took him Mersyndol & by 10:00 he was drowsy. I left arond [not a typo; an actual spelling error that appears in my diary.] 10:30 – a little disappointed he was still in such a poor condition – so hot & very tired. I liked “comforting” him – like to do that whenever he’s sick in the future. [The ‘Florence Nightingale’ aspect of my persona…]

Saturday 13/6/87

A wasted day. I woke (very angrily) at 7:30 and could NOT get back to sleep. I watched the music shows & played the tape mark let me take home last night ..love the first song on Side A (one he wrote its words to me) It’s excellent! [I’ve included a YouTube link to it below… but read on first…] Anyway I looked blankly at maths revision sheets before ringing Mark around 4:00. Talked a little while – he’s no better ..poor guy – I don’t like seeing him so sick -head ache & cough. said he’d been popping pills all day, besides sleeping, watching a little TV. Keith was there ..he said he’d come around (to give me my biology sheets) very short stay -he looked terribly tired. Tonight I copied out my bio. sheets (a second one for him, you see – it helps me study at the same time!) It’s 10:40 now. Am tired, but plan to listen to 4CCR for as long as possible. Didn’t eat too much today! Good, huh?! Hope Marky’s better tomorrow – there’s an excellent movie (sunday special) on at the Capri.

Sunday 14/6/87

You should see the bags under my eyes! BLACK. I got about 7½hours sleep last night – not enough. It’s 8:35 now & I plan to get a good sleep tonight. I wasted the day, really. Did a little maths revision after Mark rang me, just before 2:00 (very short, pointless phone call. But he’s feeling 10 times better -only has a sore throat now- and told me [privacy omission] lost his license today – speeding silly! He might be able to use [privacy omission]‘s car (if he’ll let him) cos he gets his license in 2 weeks & [privacy omission]‘s lost his for 3 months! (+$120 fine) Goody- hope he can use it!) Before, I think I just listened to music (tape) & fiddled round with my HW diary.  . Oh! I know! I wrote out my bio. assignment yeah, really good! Mmm singing Alltime Lover all day – my fav. song. (mum loves it too!) [See below. Firstly I can’t believe I actually found it (because it’s not called what I thought it was called) and secondly, I can’t believe I liked it… it has to have been just sentimental attachment because… it’s really bad. The lyrics are up there with the worst I’ve heard. And mum? Oh my beautiful mum was a bit of a musical dag I’m sad to say. She loved Bucks Fizz – that says it all. And if you don’t know Bucks Fizz, don’t worry, you ain’t missin’ anything!] Oh wish it’d stop raining & get cold. Worked out my formal dress & hairstyle totally now. Can’t wait! Must try & do maths tomorrow – get lots done. Think I will stay the whole day. Maths is a bloody problem. Ugh. So’s chemistry. Bio – no sweat. English – yukky poo. UGH! Ate a bit more today. Depressing. MUST lost weight + tone up my disfigured leg! + TAN & blonde my hair

The Seniors Induction & Emotional Rollercoaster Lows (23-29 March)

Monday 23/3/87

Mr Perrem came over this arvy.. stayed for tea. He is very upset still- it’s obvious. He was upset. Said every time he saw me, Monique was with me & told me how she went straight to the phone when she got back from Brissy & was disappointed that I wasn’t home. It was quite sad – but I only cried once. [It’s so good to know that I was important to her: it’s always nice to receive substantiation from highly reliable sources, isn’t it?] Got no HW done consequently. Day at school started off good- A Life in WordsMark gave me a baby picture of him – chubby chops!! (cutey!) 6 months old. Didn’t show many people my leg. Good muck around day. Till after school- – Megan said “Did you hear about what happened Friday night?” I said “What?” – She wouldn’t tell me …then ..Steven & Glyn whispered something. I got all shitty – Mark must’ve done something Friday night .. with [privacy omission](??) BITCH. I calmed down after after school. . it’s his loss.. I couldn’t be bothered ringing him & arguing ..  I’ll ask tomorrow. He’s the one who has to live with the guilt if he’s lying to me. But I know he loves me. I cannot understand you, Mark W. YOU’RE WIERD. [I consistently spelled this word wrong!]

Tuesday 24/3/87

Terrible day. I was preoccupied with my dilemma.. I was a bit vindictive at little lunch- juice (popper) fight. A Life in WordsDuring double biology ..Mark got “picked on” by our teacher .. got shitty after that & I was afraid to talk to him all during big lunch, and after school however 7th period, chem; cameron “told” me he didn’t do anything with [privacy omission]. Megan the rumour-spreading liar [I discovered who was actually being truthful eventually… many, many years later…] I felt embarrassed to have worried at the start. So wrote him a note. Cameron gave it to him.. but he didn’t wave when we “honked” on the way home. & no phone call tonight. Hope everything’s O.K. for tomorrow. Justine came round this arvy. Brent tonite for Fi’s chem book. shame! I’d just gotten out of the shower. must wake early tomorrow -lots to do. Jeez I hope Mark talks to me tomorrow. So tired! 9:30 Uh!

Wednesday 25/3/87

A terrible day; really horrible …he ignored & avoided me. I was so upset at times… watery eyes. A Life in WordsI must’ve pissed off so many people with my mood. In bio he sat at the other end of the bench with Chris (me on my own) & they were saying some pretty terrible things. C: “W, who’re you taking to the formal?” M: “I dunno.” GREAT!! [sounds quite like a contrived conversation?] It got worse this arvy. Fi & Jussy & I helped prepare for the BBQ ..in recreation time – went to Jussy’s to get ready – mima too. They’d [the boys, I assume?] been to the Esplanade.. came around 5:00-5:30. Ignored me ..finally…took me away by the hand…explaining his friends need him ’cause they’re all only just realising about the crash now- upset etc – sorry to “neglect” me ..said he really needs me (thought I was shitty with him.) Ha! Everything’s normal! [Yep… back to your normal gullible self!] – we talked ..we have a “communication problem” & need to “spend some time 2gether alone to fix it.” No HW done – bags under my eyes are disgusting!! Stood up too much today – knees sore. I ran today, too (not fast – not for long) LOVE YOU M&M. [I think M&M meant Monique and Mark]

Thursday 26/3/87

Hung round a fair bit till ½ way through big lunch- he was mucking around telling me not to go near him, talk to him, touch I’m or look at him. But he got too serious for me. [Here we go again…] And now I’m upset. I can’t believe we “fix” it up then something happens again, to break it down. It’s all the other people [oh really?] – we get on better, totally alone. [Well, that’s functional and realistic…] Rainy today ..cool, beautiful. That’s upsetting (not the weather) about Mark, I mean – he’s so nice at times. A Life in WordsI need an early night – almost 9:30 now _ I started a new canvas in art – did chemistry HW this arvy. Am in dire straits, concerning work. I’m not going to do well at all – I don’t know anything .. it’s terrible. [Mum could never have afforded tuition for me, but I probably wouldn’t’ve wanted it being the proud perfectionist I was. Little did I know however, that the entire first term of year 12 was to be excluded from the consideration of my overall achievement for the year, and in fact, my final score was primarily weighted on the second semester alone …thanks to the accident…] Leg’s O.K. getting better slowly, but quickly – swelling no less. Dunno about my hair. I’d like to grow it but everyone thinks it’s better short (mark wants it that way) SHIT can’t we get it right?? [I clearly didn’t know back then that it wasn’t possible to change people…]

Friday 27/3/87

Brent, Glyn, Cameron, Jason (P.) & Mark were away ..at volleyball or baseball trials. A Life in WordsAll got there in time for the induction, however. Rainy & cold (mostly) today .. double english was boring- Nigel & I mucked ’round Mr Grossetti sprung me with bubble gum! “Raced” (ran!!) to art … boring day – painting in art. Induction practise. Was chaotic!! Carrying chairs from the library to the hall! Mark, Cameron & Glyn came just in time. Didn’t see much of them. He’s ignoring me again – shitty. Probably thinks I’m shitty with him. It’s NOT FAIR. WHY, WHY can’t we get along normally?? I love him so much. I wish he’d ring me, apologise & take me out. somewhere. I want so badly to be with him. Stop hurting me, Mark. PLEASE. Love me. [This is so cringeworthy! It is actually ‘painful’ to now see so clearly the poor choices I made, and not even in the ‘name of love’ but simply pure, unadulterated naiveté. Desperately wanting this particular male specimen to be my Ideal, meet all MY expectations… oh I had so much to learn!] Induction – slow & boring, but Edith & I had a laughing fit, though. talking to lotsa people – Mrs B, Cameron’s mum, Mrs K, Mr Roff, at the afternoon tea afterwards. [To be honest, I don’t remember this occasion at all. It’s a formal school tradition, observed annually with each fresh new batch of Year 12’s.]

Saturday 28/3/87

I rang him. It was not a very good call at all..he’s “thinking over” tomorrow & on Monday will tell his decision .. whether we keep going out or not. [You can’t make any decisions, Liss? Beautifully set up for a weekend full of Anxiety…] From what I gather, he is very puzzled as to why I don’t come up to him during school time etc. I said I’m scared ..self conscious [fearing reactions, maybe?] – something he can’t understand. I’m so distressed… if we have another arguement after this that will be the end, for sure Oh, I’m so worried & upset .. I wish we could be on holidays & spend each day together, alone. That’s the best. (Today I slept in late. Did little HW, mucked ’round most of the day – watching TV, eating! Mrs R (Nola) came round tonight – A Life in Wordshad in depth talks about death, eternity & everything. Julia’s at the movies) Got good night’s sleep last night – 9½hrs at least. Rang Fi (before Mark) she tried to help, but I still was apprehensive about calling. It’s 11:25. Am tired, mate!

Sunday 29/3/87

Jeez, I’m nervous. Not too much, but still, I’ll get worse, I know. I have a feeling everything will work out, but I’m still a little worried .. in case it is, by some very slight chance “NO” ..or after it, we have yet another disagreement & that decides it .. we’re through. (I studied bio today – not much (only 1st Ch.) and also went for a swim at Justine’s this arvy – she wasn’t home ..Mrs McP & mum chatted. Otherwise stuffed around) But I woke around 9:30 this morning 9½hrs sleep!! Wow! The day went rather slowly – rainy & sunny – wierd weather. Should have an early night – try to relax ..everything will be fine. I rang Fi & told her- she couldn’t really say much to make me understand him or me. Crikey, I hope it’s O.K. I’ve got to try harder than ever. [Try harder at what?] 8:50 – listening to Take 40 I’ve lost weight for sure – my legs look so slim I must buy high-cut togs – they’d suit me better.

Doom’s Day (4 February)

Wednesday 4/2/87

A Life in Words
a candid shot during camp pack-up

[Since I typically make my diary entries at the end of each day, it stands to reason that the likelihood of that happening on this particular day is slim, even though the wording seems to suggest otherwise…]

TRAGEDY. After packing up etc this morning I took heaps of photos. Then we boarded buses. Erica, Monique, me, Fiona, mima Mark, Brent, Steven, Keith, Cameron, Chris, Glyn, Judy Jason P, Brett H, Becca G Michelle W. . . all on our bus. At first we had fun .. food fights too. Down the Gillies range I swapped places with Mark- he got the window seat – I snuggled back into his arms. Half Dozing (???) I felt us going really quickly around a corner, too fast .. I saw gravel and the bus rolled. I blacked out. When I woke Erica was on my left – head covered in blood; Jody K & Lee-anne W on my right and Mark underneath me, under a seat too. It was a nightmare. I couldn’t accept it as real, my right leg was jammed under the bus. After ages I was “pulled” out & soon taken by helicopter to hospital. The rest of the night & events are blurred. I went into theatre . . saw heaps of people .. Fiona, Kay H, Jacki W, Miss (MF) DeJourdan and Miss (R.) Bowles were in my ward. I was very tired.

A Life in Words[Make sure you’re comfortable: there are seven pages of the scrapbook dedicated to this one day, with as many details as I could recall…]

Yes, it really was the last day…time to leave. Absolute chaos trying to tidy up & pack up our belongings. Out came the cameras too…until now, we’d forgotten all about them. […that was something I later considered a prescient phenomena: how lucky were we to have remembered our cameras and gotten as many photos as we did, within just hours of the tragedy?] With the cameras came some candid shots, of course! A few misplaced items, but mainly the problem was fitting things back into bags and boxes. Most of us couldn’t wait to get home to get clean – shower, wash hair & clothes. A Life in WordsAfter taking down the tent (I’m sure we left some pegs or something behind) [ooh, Dad wouldn’t’ve been happy about that…] we lugged all the gear up to the covered area, where everyone else was, with theirs. Then, a barrage of photos taken as people stood around talking, fighting & mucking around until the buses arrived. When they did there was a mad rush to pack the buses and grab the best seats, but we were stopped by the teachers. We had to wait till they let us pack…then there was a longer wait til we were finally allowed on the buses. Only one bus was filled at a time: girls got on first…

A Life in Words
Waiting for the word. Our bus is on the left.

We chose the second bus because of its big sliding windows [better ventilation, for a cooler ride] (I also thought we’d have a better chance of getting good seats). Jemima was the first on, and I second. She sat in the second last seat on the driver’s side [what I call the ‘right side’ for future reference…] and I, after a quick decision, [aware that others were very likely queueing up the aisle behind me] slipped into the seat in front [of her], instead of the one opposite, where Monique and Fiona sat. [I have no doubt that the choice I made in this fleeting moment was pre-determined; not a (conscious) choice at all. I was destined to survive.]

The rest of the seats filled quickly: we saved seats for Erica, Monique, Mark and Brent.

A Life in Words
The last photo I took. Erica asleep, Judy’s legs beside her and Jody & Leeanne’s heads visible in front

We left second; the journey started great: we ate any leftovers we had (including Coco Pops and 100’s & 1000’s fights!) Elisia E. had a drink container of water [the contents of] which disappeared as it was passed around the whole bus.

Up a steep hill, the 3rd bus passed us, but we soon overtook it again, as it stopped for Alan D. (Who was sick).

Down the range, we began singing songs…Beatles songs mostly. Soon we all settled down, snoozing and talking quietly to each other. Mark compained about the heat, so we swapped places: he had the window seat. I leaned back against his chest…I don’t recall what time it was. I must have dozed off….

A Life in WordsThe first thing I remember just prior to the crash, was as we were just nearing the bend…I was looking across the aisle, over Jody & Leeanne’s heads, to the view, thinking “we’re going a bit fast”…then (it felt like) we took the corner really wide. [In fact we didn’t at all: the bus driver apparently sounded the horn – of which I have no recollection – as a warning to any oncoming traffic that he intended to – and did – actually cut the corner in his valid attempt to avert disaster.] I must have stood or leaned up because I remember seeing the gravel (the road shoulder) before the drop…then looking to the front of the bus, past the driver, to the bank on the other side of the road, thinking, “Come on bus driver, keep turning and we’ll stay on the road” (which was really wierd when you think about it, because I didn’t know what was happening: that is, that we were actually going to go off the cliff…maybe I subconsciously knew) [Yes, I would have, we all would have…]

I remember the front of the bus seemingly stopping, while the rear slid [out, sideways], and slid over the shoulder, the left side dragging the rest of the bus over. [Which makes sense considering that only the front brakes were operational: with no functioning rear brakes and the added weight of the undercarriage storage also located at the rear of the vehicle, there was no stopping the ‘tail-swing’.] The rest of this, the actual descent, seemed more dreamlike than the events prior to it…I remember pitch darkness…flashes of light (where perhaps windows were?) I couldn’t see anything besides that but I could hear metal crunching and glass breaking…and feeling, well, I was thrown once, twice, then I recall nothing: [I deduced later that the bus would have rolled one & a half times, because it came to rest upside down: that amounts to 6 ‘throws’ in total.] I must’ve been knocked out, but as I was rolling it felt [as if it were] in slow motion, bodies and things brushing past me, not roughly or painfully. It felt much like I was floating…doing flying somersaults.

When I came to it seemed very slowly: like the dream (nightmare) was continuing. […emerging from an inky abyss…] My body was in almost total darkness (I was under the bus) [the roof had sheared off as we rolled down the embankment and, since it ended up upside down, the bottom effectively became the ceiling] and I felt an incredible pressure upon my right leg.. I only remember thinking I was dreaming & telling myself to scream, because you have to TRY to scream in a nightmare, even though your screams are inaudible. There was a hole in the bottom of the bus [the ‘roof’] so I could see out, up a slope. [This confused me in the weeks & even months to come (until I was able to return to the site) because I couldn’t fathom why I could see trees still upright: if we had rolled down the hillside, wouldn’t we have taken out everything in our path? It turned out that the angle at which the bus came to rest in the gully was different to that at which we left the road, so I had a ‘room with a view’ of the untouched environment.] I remember screaming to get the “fucking bus off my leg” and yelling the names of people I saw walk past…some of whom told me to shut up. Slowly I realised it wasn’t a dream. I noted Erica’s head on my right, sticking partly out from under a seat, and I could only just see (from my trapped position) two bodies, whom I believed to be Jemima & Brent, at first, on my left: they were in fact Jody & Leeanne.

A Life in Words
The bus as it came to rest. Apologies for the quality of these photos: I took them from video footage stills

Astia held & stroked my left foot outside the bus and helpers tried to comfort me. There was a pair of legs sticking out from the far end of the seat on top of Erica & I finally realised they were Mark’s. I must have been out for a little while because all those people [teachers & students from the third bus] were there when I’d regained consciousness. [The third bus was apparently only minutes behind us, but long enough for some of the lesser injured to scramble back up the hideous slope and flag them down.] When Mark did, he frantically yelled at and abused me…to “get this fucking person off him” Of course I couldn’t & his anger at me distressed me more. [I had to assume it was Erica’s body, and knowing she was (therefore they both were) under the bus seat that I was also partly on top of, I tried my best to keep my bodyweight off it. Pinned as I was by my right leg, with the earth significantly dropping away into the base of the gully, I had to use my left arm to hold my bodyweight off the seat.] It seemed my mouth & my mind were two separate beings because, although I was yelling and screaming, I was thinking “don’t panic – they’re getting help – they’re doing all they can…” [the Mind versus the Witness?]

A Life in WordsMichelle W. was nearby, but I couldn’t see her…she touched my right leg and also tried to reassure me. [I have since discovered that one of the ambulance officers was periodically ‘manhandling’ my pinned leg for signs of response from me; because it was clamped so tightly but my femoral artery was still pumping blood into it, it had swollen to “twice the size” of my left leg, and I was in serious danger of losing the entire appendage if I lost sensation…] 

I was arguing with Mark…I tried to tell him I couldn’t move Erica because she was…unconscious.  But somehow I knew she was dead. There was fresh blood all through her beautiful blonde hair, and a pool of it in her ear (none on her face). [That still amazes me, to this day.] I heard Jody’s breathing, if that’s what you can call it: he was having tremendous difficulty: wheezing & choking [his lungs were punctured]…but I don’t actually remember hearing him stop.

I didn’t think of Monique, nor Jemima or Fiona. I was thrown into oblivion by the shock, I think. I thought only of my immediate surroundings and not even of what had actually occurred. [Talk about being ‘in the Now’…] I remember at one stage, reaching back to feel my right leg…drawing my hand back into view, I saw lots of blood and dirt and fragments of skin hanging off my fingers.  Mark’s left calf had a tear in it: a ‘hole’ and bright red flesh was hanging from that. Possibly the only reason I was not sick (physically) from the sight of all this gore, was the fact that I was in shock. [Absolutely.]

A Life in Words
An aerial view of the hairpin bend we failed to negotiate. You can just see the bus at the top of the picture

I remember, what seemed HOURS later, when they first attempted to lift the bus off my leg…there was a new sensation…painful only in the sense that it was uncomfortable: the rush of blood to supply the rest of my leg, or be released through my open wounds…but it was shortlived…the great tonne [or more?] of metal was again allowed to rest on my leg, as, I found out later, when the bus was first lifted with only one set of ‘Jaws of Life’, the weight was transferred to the other end of the bus and consequently put more pressure on a victim (Cameron) who was trapped by his chest.

So a second set was [finally] applied and the bus levered up evenly. Again, the horrible new sensation.

A man told me he was going to take some metal out of my leg, “Hold still and I’ll do it gently” But I couldn’t bear the thought of him slowly edging foreign material out of my leg, and so yelled “No! Just RIP it out!” [Actually, from memory it was more like “no, just fucking rip it out”] He must have, because I don’t remember the pain from that.

Possibly the most pain I experienced was when they dragged me out from under the bus…up onto a stretcher…I kept my eyes closed for most of that time. I remember chatting away, as they hoisted me off the ground and carried me (upside down – I remember – possibly to stem the flow of blood?) [or to keep the leg elevated, to drain some of the swelling & keep the blood in my torso, around my vital organs?] to the ‘top’.

A Life in Words
Anyone & everyone (who was able) helped SES workers in the rescue.

I was placed under a yellow tarpaulin…still talking to anyone who was there. [Clearly my automatic shock response defaults to Chatterbox.] They tried to put up another tarp adjoining the one I was just underneath and I remember it falling and me putting my hand up to stop it landing on my leg. [It was overcast but I believe there was minimal rainfall, so the rescue operation wasn’t hampered. Lucky us.]

I have no idea how long I waited up on the road, before I left by helicopter. [Days later, two of my friends said their watches had stopped at exactly 12:57pm, so we all assumed that that was the moment of ‘impact’ …and apparently it was pretty much spot on. As for how long I was trapped, then lying on the roadside before my transit to hospital I still have no idea, other than my sister guessing I arrived at Cairns Base around 4pm] Although, I remember seeing Kay standing up…looking at me and saying “You’ll be alright Elissa.” [God knows what her perception of my leg was. I cannot imagine what it must have looked like.]

When I was lifted and told I was going by helicopter (and wasn’t I lucky?) and to shut my eyes, they carried me past a familiar pair of legs sticking out of a familiar pair of shorts…I tried to reach down to him…”Mark! Mark?” But they moved [lifted] me higher up and away faster. From then I kept my eyes closed…it seemed a fairly long trek to the helicopter. [It would have to have been… I almost can’t picture where the chopper would have been able to land on the narrow mountain highway] Then I felt the overhead propellors and I was loaded inside the ‘copter.

I could see the [back of the] pilot’s head, a man sitting to my right (to whom I kept babbling on) and the perspex roof, through which light grey clouds and raindrops could be seen. [Hardly a memorable helicopter ride, when all you get to see is the sky above you.]

I remember borrowing the man’s handkerchief for some (unknown to me) reason and making sure that I returned it to him when we landed. [Courtesy instilled in me by my great parents.] I remember lots of people in white putting me on a trolley stretcher and wheeling me somewhere, [most likely from the Cairns Esplanade (the nearest open space suitable for a helicopter to land) which is fortunately just across the road from the Cairns Base Hospital] but I don’t remember actually entering the hospital.

I remember being wheeled past partitions in a room, wheeled into an end one: directly opposite a set of swinging doors, Just before I was put in there, I recall turning my head to the left and seeing someone, in the partition before mine, with a totally red face….blood-covered & bloodstained…at first I thought it was Brent but realised later it must have been Brett.

I was in that partitioned area for quite a short period of time…some doctor looking at my leg and asking my name, address, parents’ names and home phone number…then I was wheeled through the swinging doors into an unpartitioned room and placed quite nearby Sean D…who was sitting up, looking OK. Again the nurses asked personal details and, whether they gave me a ‘shot’ or not, I remember nothing else…but passing out.

A Life in Words
The shorts I was wearing were cut off me: I don’t know if the discoloured areas are old blood or faeces stains. I would have had no idea (nor care) obviously whether I’d soiled myself or not…

When I came to again, it was only extremely briefly and I felt extremely groggy…I was in a white room with lots of silver machinery [theatre] and they were putting a gown on me, and taking off my ring and earrings. Then I passed out again.

I came to in a corridor; I was being wheeled somewhere [probably to the ward]. As I was still under the effect of the anaesthetic, I was trying my hardest to keep my eyes open. I saw Julia, Mum (very concerned-looking) and Dad and Jenny, then I said “How’s Monique? What about Mark? How is everybody?” [but don’t recall any responses] I vaguely remember Mum nearly fainting and the nurses putting her on a trolley too. [My poor beautiful mother… I can’t imagine the stress she was under. She had had the utter misfortune earlier of sitting with two of the dead children’s mothers at the very moment they were called to be dealt their worst nightmares.]

The next and last thing I remember from that day was finding myself in my room in Ward C West (floor 3). There were lots of people, mostly visitors, milling around. I can only remember talking to Sharon and Harry B. I was unaware of any pain in my leg(s) or the catheter they had ‘implanted’. I didn’t even realise I had no underwear on. I was wearing a hospital nightie. I remember being quite ‘chirpy’ (obviously still in shock) and asking people questions. I had missed the news but heard that it was a ‘national disaster’. [Oddly, I must admit I felt a little ‘thrilled’ about the whole country knowing and talking about us. It goes to show just how powerful Ego can be. Shock can deny you the gravity of a situation but may have no effect on Ego.]

Although visiting hours officially ended at 8pm, I think the hospital staff had quite some difficulty in removing all the visitors (especially relatives) by 8:45pm.A Life in Words

I remember still wanting to talk when everyone had left: Jacque seemed the most willing, aside from Miss Bowles. Miss DeJourdan seemed very quiet and Kay appeared to do much more listening than talking. Fiona was quite absent from this world…it would take at least 3 calls of her name before she would turn to look at whomever was calling, then when asked a question, would either nod, or just look at you, not understanding or comprehending, even ignoring. She slept the most and longest out of the six of us. I wasn’t sure of my wounds, thinking I had a deep cut in the back of my right thigh, and a severe cut on my left knee. I don’t remember whether I was fed painkillers, but I fell asleep quite quickly and quite soundly.