Special Report: Living with loss - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Special Report: Living with loss

Coffee County- "When I pray I tell the Lord to tell her I love her and I'll see her one day," says Ronda Nelson.

Nelson doesn't remember much about the night of September 20, 2003, accept that it was the last time she saw her daughter Meagan.

"Beautiful girl, tough. She had a good head on her shoulders. She didn't care what people thought about her. It was just you like me for who I am," says Nelson.

And there are many who did like the 14 year old. Nelson was so devastated that for months she couldn't even bear to look at her daughter's photos.

Probably the end of last year I just got to where I stopped crying every night," admits Nelson.

Meagan's mother was one of the first people to find the children's bodies after the wreck, month's later she found the Lord.

"I got saved after she died, and I asked the Lord to forgive me because it took so long, but it took that to get me saved," she says.

Today Ronda Nelson says she leans on the Lord to give her strength until the day she and Meagan are reunited.

"She's always around. She might not be here, but she's always around," says Lorie Arsenault.

Gerald and Lorie Arsenault took the death of their 10 year old Courtney equally as hard.

"For the first four or five months it happened it didn't matter what I did, it was hard," says Gerald Arsenault.

It was hard to say goodbye to such a sweet, intelligent little girl.

"She was a very bright, loving child, very active. She was always wanting to help somebody or do something. Good on school, A's and B's," the Arsenaults say.

The Arsenaults say dealing with the pain is even harder knowing the woman charged with causing the wreck that killed their daughter has yet to go to trial. Amanda Troupe was just indicted last month on five counts of vehicular homicide and driving under the influence.

"Justice needs to be served because I feel like it should be and it hasn't yet," Gerald Arsenault says.

"Something needs to happen to the lady. I don't know why it's taken a year and a half to do it. If was to happen to me or him, or anybody for that matter, we'd be sitting in jail," his wife Lorie says.

"It's just amazing how many people they were loved by and how many people they've touched," says Ann Varnedore.

The tragedy is twice as painful for Ann and David Varnedore. They lost a daughter and a son on the same night.

"Dustin was a ladies man and he was quite a sport. he loved the girls. Kayla she was a 13 year old girl. She loved the telephone and she loved her friends and the radio, yes Lord," says Ann Varnedore.

As they and the other parents await the trial, the couple admits they haven't been able to find it in their hearts to forgive Troupe yet.

"I think that will maybe come when we see justice is done," Ann says.

"And maybe when she shows a little remorse because she doesn't have any," says David Varnedore.

The Varnedores spend their days missing their angels and holding a tight reign on three year old Rosie, the one child they have left.

"It just makes you realize you have your kids, and you think they'll be with you forever, and it never crosses your mind that one day they may not be," Ann Varnedore says.

"She was just into everything. She had to be in the middle," smiles Terri Joyner.

There isn't a day Terri Joyner doesn't think about her daughter Lindsay, a self-proclaimed tomboy who many others knew as smiley.

"People say well y'all are taking it so good, but you don't have to go home with us at night. You don't have to go to sleep with us," she says.

Like the other families, she anxiously awaits the trial, but has found it in her heart for forgive.

"Forgive, you don't ever forget, but you can forgive. I can't hate her because I want to see Lindsay again," Terri Joyner says.

She want to see Lindsay again in heaven, but for now Terri Joyner finds contentment in believing her daughter's looking down on her.

"I know she's around. I know all of them are around, and I know they are watching after Heather.

"Physically she's doing well. She's healed very well. Emotionally it's been really rough," says her mother Tammy Bass.

Fifteen year old Heather Bass, the sole survivor and for her friends' parents a glimmer of hope.

"I feel like a miracle sometimes, but other times I feel like I wasn't supposed to be here and I was supposed to go up with them," Heather Bass says.

Heather may have survived but she was critically injured.

"She broke both her legs pretty bad, both pelvic bones, concussion, internal bruising," remembers Tammy Bass.

Tammy Bass says while it wasn't safe for six children to be riding on an ATV on the roadway, she believes the tragedy was inevitable.

"They could have been on a church hay ride, Halloween, on bicycles and she still was drinking and driving and came over on their side of the road. Two wrongs don't make a right," says Tammy Bass.

After months of therapy the teen has conquered her physical setbacks.

"I'm doing pretty good I guess. My leg still aches sometimes," says Heather Bass.

But, she's still struggling to conquer her emotional injuries.

"It's hard for her to sit and tell you how she feels about things, but she can write it down and it will tell you so much," says Tammy Bass.

Her book of poetry has been Heather's only means of finding a little peace because she survived when her friends perished.

"I sit in my room by myself and listen to music and it soothes me. I just spent time alone and think about everything that's happened," says Heather Bass.

Heather says she wants to become a child psychologist in the future and help those like her rise above their own tragedies.

"I need counseling myself and I do go to counseling and I think that I could help other people in child psychology and that's what I'm planning on doing," says Heather Bass.

Because there were so many deaths it took the Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team more than a year to rebuild the fatal wreck and present their report to the district attorney. Troupe is still out on $500,000 bond. The case is expected to go to trial this Spring.

Posted at 5:45 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com