Life in an Instant: One mother's story, she wants you to hear -

Life in an instant: A mother's story

Life in an instant.

In one moment you're planning dinner for your family, in the next you hear sirens.

"Funny," you think, "that's a lot of police cars. Must be a bad wreck for middle of the day." At some point you realize you can't get a hold of your daughter. You keep calling. She doesn't pick up. So you end up following the sirens down the road… still remaining calm. 

There's no reason not to be. She was just heading to the store. It's not like anything really happens that fast.


Then you come upon the wreck. You see a body bag. 

You still think your 19-year old daughter will call you any second. It isn't until you see three state troopers walking towards you that you realize it's not good.

Life in an instant: It's what Tanisha Johnson wants you to know about.

In a world where we all see accidents on the news every day, this is the raw, real-life story of what happens after the wreck is cleared. Our cameras were rolling by chance.  

We caught the moment Tanisha's life changed. She says she wants you to see how quickly everything can be turned upside down with no warning. She wants you to see her story – even though it's hard to watch – so you can appreciate what you have now, while you have it.

"You just never know," Tanisha says. "I always hear the saying, ‘Everybody knows their birth date. But nobody knows their death date.'"

Four months ago, Tanisha's oldest child and only daughter, Santasia, was in a car with a teenaged-neighbor and another friend. Santasia was sitting in the front passenger seat. They were heading to the store when a car rear-ended them and sent their Nissan spinning into oncoming traffic.

A pick-up truck slammed into the passenger side. Santasia didn't stand a chance.

"You just never know that in an instant – in just one instant – you could be responsible for taking another individual's life," Tanisha says. "By carelessness. Or not paying attention. Or just a split-second of looking off the road. Now my baby is gone."

Santasia was a recent high school graduate. She wanted to go into the Air Force and had just met with the recruiter the day before.

North Carolina state troopers say telling a parent their child is dead is – by far – one of the hardest parts of their jobs.

When it came to telling Tanisha, Trooper Randy Lankford said it quickly. He didn't beat around the bush. He later told us that was because there's no easy way to say it.

"Do you have a daughter named Santasia Johnson?" he asked Tanisha.

She was standing alongside the road with her parents. She nodded.

"I'm sorry," he said. "She was killed."

Tanisha says she will never forget those words. Four months later, she can remember every step the troopers took walking towards her. She can close her eyes and still hear the sirens. 

Troopers say all that is normal. And if more people saw the pain in a parent who hears those words, there would be a lot more careful drivers on the road.

"If more people had to do that as often as we had to do that, it would give people a different perspective on driving," Trooper Lankford says. "Make you more careful. Less complacent. I think we'd have more lives ultimately saved. Every driver has to remember, they have other people's lives in their hands when they're behind the wheel. Not just their own."

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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