Sara and Courtney met when they were 10. They played soccer together on a travel team.
“We were the best of friends,” Courtney said.
Now they were going into their junior year at Northmont High School and were on the varsity soccer team. They were excited about the annual soccer alumni game and had tickets to the Rascal Flatts concert that night.
Courtney and Sara didn’t make it to either.
An August afternoon
It was the day of the annual alumni soccer game at Northmont. The soccer players had been conditioning all summer. The junior varsity teams (men and women) would play first against another school, only to scrimmage. Then the varsity teams would play the alumni. In the soccer realm, this was quite the event. Parents and friends would be there to watch and eat concessions.
On the road
Sara and Courtney were going to get their uniforms together before the game. Sara called and said she’d be running late and that Courtney should go without her. Then she called back and told Courtney she’d pick her up.
Courtney rested her right leg on the windowsill like she always did in Sara’s car. The window was down and the Ohio summer breeze whistled through her blonde hair.
Sara had gotten a burrito from Taco Bell before she picked Courtney up.
“Put my sauce on for me,” Sara said.
Courtney said she remembers being annoyed, removing her leg from the windowsill and opening the small package of mild taco sauce. Sara took a couple bites of her burrito and sat it in her lap. Sara asking her friend to put sauce on her taco is the only reason Courtney still has her right leg.
Sara was in the left turn lane on Union Boulevard. The light was yellow and her Lexus was in the middle of the intersection.
“Should I go?” Sara said.
“Yeah,” Courtney said.
There were no cars coming. Sara was looking toward National Road, where the high school was.
Courtney looked to her right. A silver Dodge Ram was speeding towards Sara’s Lexus.
“What?” Sara said.
Courtney screamed again. The last thing she saw was the grill of the Dodge Ram.
At the field
Ron and Patty Boeckman were on the soccer board. Ron was in charge of coordinating different games and events. Patty was his trusty assistant and helped out with concessions. That day, they were setting up for the game at the field and waiting for their daughter, Courtney, to arrive.
Patty’s phone rang. It was Courtney.
“Do you have a daughter named Courtney?”
It was a woman’s voice she hadn’t heard before.
“She’s been involved in an accident at National and Union. You might want to come, but she seems okay.”
Patty said news started traveling fast and the accident seemed worse than the woman had let on. She and Ron got in the car and drove down the road to the intersection.
“There was a lot of emergency vehicles and then I see this car and I don’t recognize it,” Patty said.
Seeing Courtney was very emotional.
“Your heart just goes to your feet,” Patty said. “It’s every parent’s nightmare when your child is involved in something severe like that.”
Ron said the phone call was the scariest part.
“All these questions and thoughts rush through your mind,” Ron said. “It was bad.”
After the crash
Sara never saw the truck coming.
“I’m so glad I didn’t see it,” Sara said. “I can’t imagine seeing it and knowing it was gonna happen like (Courtney) did.”
Sara’s airbag had peeled the skin off her face.
“I don’t remember anything until I saw her face,” Courtney said. “It was just … bloody.”
The car was smoking and Sara was at the front of the car screaming for Courtney to get out.
“I couldn’t breathe ‘cause the airbag stuff was in my lungs,” Courtney said. “I couldn’t open my door because it was so crunched in and so I climbed out the window.”
Courtney climbed out of the open window and layed in the street.
“All I wanted to do was sleep,” Courtney said.
Sara called her mom to tell her what happened while bystanders tended to Courtney. People driving to the alumni game who saw the accident site parked and came to see what had happened.
“The people that witnessed it said that the truck came out of nowhere and it was going like 40 ‘cause it was pulling out of a parking lot and they were trying to beat the red light,” Courtney said.
When the ambulance got there, they tended to Courtney.
“They put me on a backboard and I really didn’t know what was going on,” Courtney said. “Then, all of a sudden I saw one of my best friends towering over me and I was like, ‘Something’s really wrong.'”
When Patty and Ron got to the intersection, Courtney was on a stretcher. Courtney looked at her parents standing above her and started to cry.
Ron said a lot of the people driving by to go to the field stopped to see what was going on.
“If there was anything cool about the whole thing, it was the camaraderie,” Ron said.
Patty rode with Courtney in the ambulance and Ron followed behind in their car. Sara and Courtney waited for a long time before they had X-rays and were released to go home.
“I had to sit there for a really long time and then they just made sure that I hadn’t broken anything and then they checked and I had got a concussion,” Courtney said.
Courtney’s body was sore because of the impact of the crash and there was an imprint on her chest where the seatbelt had hit her.
Sara had cuts and bruises, but was otherwise fine.
Sara’s Lexus was totaled. The truck hit the front passenger side of the car and the wheel was smashed up inside the hood. Courtney’s door looked like crunched aluminum foil.
Police told Courtney that if she had her leg on the windowsill or an inch closer to the door, she may not have walked again. If the truck had hit the car any closer to where Courtney sat, she may not have made it.
Every fall athlete at Northmont was required to take the ImPACT test, a computerized assessment of an athlete used by coaches and athletic trainers to determine the athlete’s concussion severity. Courtney was one of the first athletes to use the test.
“They would take a pretest and that way if they took a concussion on the field, we could test them immediately and see how it would fit with the baseline,” Greg Behrens, the athletic trainer at Northmont, said. “Courtney was one of the first ones. It was a non-sports injury, but we still used the same baseline and the same data.”
Behrens was the previous athletic trainer at Northmont and worked closely with Courtney over the next few weeks to determine if she was ready to play soccer again. Behrens said he tested Courtney every five days. She wasn’t allowed to text or play video games and she was unable to finish her summer reading. Behrens and Courtney had multiple meetings with teachers to explain she wouldn’t be able to participate at the same level for a short time.
But Courtney didn’t do well with relaxation.
“We got through it and yeah that was hard,” Patty said. “You don’t keep Courtney down.”
Behrens learned Courtney’s character quickly.
“(Courtney) pushed herself a great deal,” Behrens said. “It was hard to get her to realize that pushing yourself is not going to make it better, it’s going to make it worse. Once we got the teacher and her and everybody on the same page and let her brain rest, that’s when we started seeing her recover pretty quick.”
Courtney wasn’t herself for at least three weeks, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if you saw her.
“It was hard for me,” Courtney said. “Our team looked at Sara and her face and they looked at me who had like one scratch and they were like, ‘Well why aren’t you playing? Sara’s playing.'”
The next three weeks were hard on Patty, who spent the most time with Courtney.
“Her whole personality changed,” Patty said. “She wasn’t mean to other people, but at home she was.”
Patty said it was easier for Courtney to be mean to the people she lived with and that she loved.
Remembering how difficult it was, Patty started to tear up.
“I knew she was okay when she wrote us a little thank you note,” Patty said. “It said, ‘I’m sorry I was very difficult I know you were there and thank you for everything and for supporting me.’ That’s when I knew I had my Courtney.”
Courtney and Sara’s relationship changed after that day. Sara felt responsible, when in fact it could’ve happened to anyone.
“(Sara) had a really hard time with it,” Courtney said. “Our friendship was kind of bumpy there for a while. We were still young — we were 16 years old. That’s really hard to deal with.
The two are still friends today.
“We’ve been through a lot together and that just topped it all off.”