Friday, January 25, 2013 was a beautiful day. The weather was clear blue skies and a slight cool breeze with temperatures in the mid-60's most of the day. Julie called me early in the day to remind me we would be meeting friends that night at The Back Door Restaurant, one of our favorites, located about 25 miles away in Columbia, Mississippi. I arrived home around 4:45 PM and rushed in to shower and change clothes prior to leaving that evening. As we walked out, we talked about our plans for the next day, which included working in our flower beds, attending Ella's first Upward Basketball game at the church, and then taking her to the 3 PM birthday party of her best friend, Gracie.
That particular evening, we decided to take the 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Sedan, aka "Ole Bess", a car I had purchased 20 years prior. It was ideal for the short drive we were making with a full moon coming up. We arrived at the restaurant as scheduled and had a wonderful visit. As we started to leave at approximately 7:50 PM, I stopped and showed my friend my car, and we talked beside her for about 10 minutes. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and all piled into Bess for the ride home.
As we made our way through the small town of Columbia, all three of us were in awe of the brightness of the full moon. Ella was the first to comment saying, "Look at the moon guys!" We all talked about how beautiful it was and the fact that it was so brilliant that evening.
As we turned onto Hwy 44 heading east, we again discussed the plans for the following day while Ella continued to comment on the moon. I began telling her that the moon would dance through the trees and follow us all the way home. About 10 miles into the drive, I made a remark to Julie that it was very unusual to not see very much traffic on this highway. We had scarcely passed any vehicles since leaving the city limits of Columbia. Just about the time I said that Ella reminded us that it was Friday night and that she would be sleeping with her Mommy (a new tradition we had started a few weeks before). She added, "Daddy, you'll have to sleep in the guest room because you snore!" We all laughed and continued our small talk.
It was at this point I noticed a car approaching from behind at a very high rate of speed. I glanced down at my speedometer, and Ole Bess was holding steady at her top speed of 50 MPH. As the car moved within 100 yards or so, I looked at Julie then glanced down to my left and said, "Honey, this fool is going to attempt to pass me on a double yellow line!" I began to move my car off the road to allow the person room enough to pass if they chose to.
Those words had barely left my mouth when the approaching car impacted ours at such a high rate of speed, that it threw Julie and me forward violently. Our car was lifted and began spinning out of control. I yelled, "Hang on!" All I could hear were Ella and Julie screaming. I turned the steering wheel hard left to correct the spin, but the car was uncontrollable. Then I saw the huge oak tree directly in front of us as my car came out of the spin. I attempted to miss the tree, but the car slammed into it, ripping off the right side of the car as it absorbed the impact. Then we hit a second oak tree head-on which caused the car to violently flip, throwing Julie out.
As the car stopped, I was stunned. The car was lying on its right side trapping Ella and me inside. I yelled for Julie but she did not answer. Ella began screaming again and crying for her Mommy. I grabbed for her and unbuckled her seat belt. I could smell gasoline and knew we needed to get out of the vehicle. I yelled for help because my left arm was broken and I could not open the driver's door, which was now directly over my head. Finally, a good Samaritan yanked the door open from above and assisted me in getting myself and my daughter out. Once out of the car, Ella seemed fine for the moment, so I ran towards my wife's lifeless body about 20 yards from where the car came to rest. As I rolled her over, her entire front skull was visible and looked as if she had been scalped. Her eyes were half opened and fully dilated. She was not breathing, and I yelled for someone to please call 911. I remember screaming something to the effect of "She's gone!"
I then ran back to Ella, and it was at that moment a lady said, "Mr. Formby, I am one of Ella's kindergarten teachers!" When she called Ella's name, Ella ran to her. It was then that I began to hear my Julie moaning in pain, so I ran back to her. She ask me to roll her onto her side because she was having trouble breathing. I kept begging someone to please call 911, and they reassured me help was on the way. In what seemed like hours I finally started hearing the distant sounds of sirens coming. Within a few minutes, Julie was airlifted to the local hospital by helicopter, and Ella and I were transported by ambulance.
Ella died on February 4, 2013, from head injuries sustained in the accident.
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