Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

Mr. Speaker, every day parents send their children to school with the faith that they will return after their classes, their sports practice, or even clubs after school. As a father of four, I know the feeling. I did the same for many years on different occasions. We as parents send our kids off, and we trust that we will see them that night for supper.

But for two Beaumont, Texas, families last Thursday morning, it did not occur that way. West Brook High School students Alicia Bonura and Ashley Brown were playing in the soccer playoffs after school that day. That morning their parents wished them good luck and sent them on their way, anticipating news of a win upon their return. When they sent their daughters to school, they had no idea of the nightmare that would unfold that afternoon. Tragically, their star soccer players never came home.

It was supposed to be an exciting day. Mr. Speaker, Beaumont, Texas, has suffered through a rough year with many families still feeling the effects of Hurricane Rita. The West Brook High School girls soccer team and their successes were good news to this storm-torn city.

The Bruins were coming off a 14-5-2 record, and they were traveling to Humble, Texas, to take on the Houston Lamar Redskins in the Class 5A playoffs. The game had already been postponed once and it was raining again, but the game was set to take place at 5 p.m. in Humble. Unfortunately, the team never made it to the game.

Around 2 p.m., about 28 miles from home in Devers, Texas, the chartered bus carrying the team, the coach and one parent chaperone swerved to miss debris that had fallen off a truck in front of them. The bus rolled onto its side into a muddy ditch.

Sadly, senior Alicia Bonura and sophomore Ashley Brown lost their lives in this tragedy. Six other girls were hospitalized in serious condition. Goalie Devin Martindale lost her arm in this accident. The other five girls were Lauree Thibaut, Allison Forman, Sarah Beach, Courtney Garrod, and Sarah Babin. Two of those girls have been released from the hospital and are back home.

News of the accident quickly spread back to the town and West Brook students set up a vigil in the high school gymnasium where friends and faculty prayed and hoped for the best. Soon the students were hit with the horrendous news that two of their own had been killed in this catastrophe.

According to the Beaumont Enterprise, the girls are remembered for ``loving soccer, loving their school and loving everyone they came in touch with.''

Alicia Bonura, in addition to playing soccer, had played basketball, she ran cross-country, and was a trainer for the West Brook football team. She played the drums in the band and sometimes she sang vocals as well. She is remembered for her wonderful laugh and a smile that would light up a room. She was ranked number five in her class of 535, and she recently decided to attend Texas A&M University to study mechanical engineering.

On her MySpace Web page she wrote: ``I love to smile and love life in general and I love God. He is such a fantastic guy.'' Under people she would like to meet, she writes, ``I can't wait to meet God.'' Moving words from one of God's children.

Ashley Brown was a freckle-faced girl with long red hair. Her friends said she always made people laugh and was a free spirit and had a smile that would light up a room. Her teachers said that her fellow students gravitated to her. She was an active member in her youth ministry at her church, Calvary Baptist. Besides soccer, she loved singing, playing volleyball, skiing and playing the electric guitar.

Ashley had a bulletin board in her home covered in photos and memorabilia. In the middle of the board there was a handwritten note stating the following: ``You can't choose how you are going to die, but you can choose how you are going to live.''

Mr. Speaker, in her 16 years on Earth, Ashley Brown