The Bald Cyprus tree outside the admin building was adorned with flowers on Friday in memory of the ACU student who died five years ago in a tragic bus accident while on a school field trip.
Anabel Reid, who was a sophomore environmental science major at the time of the accident, died on Nov. 4, 2011, when she and 15 other members from the Agricultural and Environmental Science department were heading to Medina for a field trip and crashed into a culvert nine miles south of Ballinger on U.S. Highway 83.
Anabel’s mother Shelly Reid said she looks forward to her pilgrimage to campus every year on the anniversary of her daughter’s death.
“I don’t know for certain why; I just know I need it,” Reid said. “It’s a way to remember the last year and a half of Anabel’s life.”
Shelly Reid said that she attends chapel every year on the day of the anniversary. After, she attends a memorial service held by faculty, students, and friends of the AES department honoring Anabel. Shelly also travels out to the road where the bus accident occurred as part of her annual ritual to remember the life of her daughter.
Anabel Reid was the only fatality from the crash, but all other 15 passengers suffered various degrees of injury, some were in critical condition and some are still in the process of recovery five years later.
Mandy Scudder, academic coordinator during the accident, said she is still in touch with almost everybody who was on the bus.
Scudder said, “They are all coping with it in their own way, but [the anniversary] does unite us.”
Emmett Miller, a retired former ACU professor, and his wife Pat were also passengers on the bus. Miller said the injuries he suffered were a broken finger on one hand and scarring and scratching on the back of one hand.
His wife Pat Miller, however, was in a coma for two weeks after the accident. Miller said that it has been a slow recovery process for his wife ever since. “There are reminders of it everyday,” Miller said, “but you take everyday thankful you are alive.”
Dr. Jim Cooke, environmental science professor, was a passenger in the bus but was also one of four people who were not ejected from the bus in the accident.
“I was a strong believer in wearing seatbelts then, and I am a strong believer in wearing them now,” Cooke said.
Cooke suffered from seven broken vertebrae, damage to his rotator cuff in the shoulder, a concussion, and earlobe damage, but no lingering issues.
Cooke said that one way that a person deals with loss is to put it behind them. “We want to see it for what it was—an accident. We can’t change anything about it but we are not going to dwell on it, we are going to move forward and think positively.”
Anna Cuifo, a former animal science major, was a passenger and sustained 15 fractures from the accident. Cuifo said it took her two years to completely recover from her injuries which included a broken jaw, a fractured sternum, a fractured pelvis, her PCL was stretched out in the knee and an open fracture to her right heel, “which limits me the most,” Cuifo said.
After the accident, Cuifo switched her major to pre-physical therapy and now works at the UT branch in Galveston as a physical therapist.
Cuifo said this major change came not only from the gratitude she had for the generosity of her physical therapists while she was in recovery, but also because she said she believes that “even if your body isn’t the same as it used to be, or not the same as anyone else’s, you can still live a meaningful life.”
Though Cuifo was told she would possibly never walk again by her doctors and physical therapists, she completed a 10-mile Spartan race. Cuifo said she wore the same shoes that she was wearing in the accident. “It was kind of a really cool spiritual journey,” Cuifo said.
Merissa Ford, another passenger on the bus, was a freshman agribusiness major at the time of the accident.
Ford said she broke her back and her pelvis, both of her legs, a bone in her face, had her leg “ripped open,” a bruised lung and a chipped molar. Ford wore a back brace for three and a half months and spent seven months in physical therapy “to re-learn how to walk.”
Ford currently lives in Nashville and works as a sales rep. She also plays violin and bass on the weekends, as well as performs for a couple different churches. Ford said she uses her testimony to minister to the youth at her church.
Ford said when her doctors told her she would never be the same again, her response was, “I’m a cowgirl. I’m tough. I can deal with things. If something goes wrong, you fix it.”
Ford said it was not until she started going to physical therapy when she began to understand what they meant and began to develop “fears (she) never had before.”
Ford said the most important thing she learned is even though she did not understand why God put her through the accident, she got to learn “who he is and how much he lavishly loves us in the details.”
Ford said, “I couldn’t imagine going through the accident in any other department, because we are so close to family.”
Scudder said the one thing that was different this year was that the anniversary occurred on the same calendar day as the accident, Friday.
Shelly Reid said she appreciated the parallelism because it reminded her of how the ACU community “went above and beyond,” Reid said. “Truly, they moved mountains for us.”