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Trees along a curved section Va. 24, between Spradlin Road and Morgans Mill Road bear the signs of motor vehicle accidents.
One of those was made by a Staunton River High School student on May 1. Katherine Hogan believes she is alive today because of the "granny car", a 1996 Mercury Sable, that her family got for her to drive and the fact that she always wears her seatbelt.
Hogan was coming home from her after school job as a waitress in Vinton. Her shift was from 5 p.m until 9 p.m. According to her mother, Sandra Willis, she always comes straight home. If she has any change of plans, she always calls home first.
That Tuesday night, Hogan didn't come home. She went off the right side of the road and hit a tree. Hogan doesn't remember what happened. She recalls approaching the curve, then the next thing she remembers is sitting in the car screaming for help. A man was looking in the window telling her to hold on, that help was on the way. The next thing she remembers was being in the hospital and asking them to call her mother.
Memories disappear again until the next morning. She was in the hospital with her family gathered in the room. Memory again disappears. She has no consistent memories until the afternoon following the crash.
Willis had gone to bed that night at 9 p.m. She said she woke up at 10:40 with a feeling of dread. Her daughter was not home. Finally, a little after midnight, she got a call from Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Hogan was alive, but needed surgery. They hadn't called sooner because they thought Hogan was an adult. It wasn't until after the teen asked that they call Willis that emergency room staff realized they had a minor.
The call was a relief for Willis. She knew her daughter was alive. She finally got to see Hogan at 7 a.m.
"It was a beautiful sight," Willis recalled.
The first thing Hogan asked her mother was if she could still go to the prom that Saturday.
"I was able to get off [work] and, that night, I wrecked," Hogan commented.
Hogan wasn't going anywhere that weekend. When she went off the road, she drove straight into a tree at approximately 50 mph. Her seatbelt kept her in her seat and the airbag deployed, protecting her face. However, her left leg was broken in two places, one above the knee and one below. Broken ends of bone were sticking out of the flesh of her lower leg. The leg had to be surgically put back together.
Instead of going to the prom, she spent a week in the hospital, followed by a week in a rehabilitation center. She then spent three months in a wheel chair.
By the time school started in the fall, she was up and around and back at the cosmetology program at Bedford Science and Technology Center.
Hogan takes the injury in stride. The family was given tickets to a Brad Paisley concert and when she went in, the metal in her leg set off a metal detector.
"I was excited about that," Hogan commented. "I can't wait until the next time I go on an airplane to see how much security comes around."
Hogan will graduate next year and the accident got her thinking about what she will do with her life. She's going to continue her education and has been accepted at Virginia Western Community College for the fall semester. At present, Hogan is thinking about a career as a dental hygienist.
It also got her thinking about that section of highway.
"They really need to put a guardrail up," she commented.
"There's a whole bunch of [Va.] 24 we'd like to do," said Debbie Shinstine, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) residency staff engineer for Bedford County.
Shinstine confirmed that the section of Va. 24 where Hogan crashed meets the criteria for a guardrail. Money is the problem.
"Right now there is no funding for guardrail," said Bob Sutton, the VDOT residency administrator for the county.
Sutton said that he is seeking $1 million for guardrails in the county.
"And that won't come close to funding all the needs," he said.
Guardrails, according to Sutton, cost $15 per foot to install.