Courtney White wanted to sleep just a bit longer Tuesday when her mother woke her up at 5:30 a.m.
After the 14-year-old got up and got ready, she woke up her brother and told him it was time to go. They were both scrambling to catch the bus that usually picks them up about 6:38 a.m.
“They were both running behind,” said Vicki White, Courtney’s mother. “I heard the door slam for Courtney, and I went back to sleep.”
By the time Tyler White made it outside, his sister was gone. Thinking she had caught the bus without him, he asked his mother to drive him to the next bus stop at the other end of their circular neighborhood.
It was about a tenth of a mile up a hill on Chapman Road that a man flagged them down to stop and told them a child had been hit. Tyler White told himself it couldn’t be his younger sister, as he thought she was safe on the bus.
“Is it a girl?” his mother asked the man. “Before he answered, I’d seen her plaid bag I bought her for Christmas lying in the road. It wasn’t good. I was petrified.”
A woman performed CPR, but it was too late.
“I want to know who did this to her,” White said later at her kitchen table.
Family and friends had already gathered, and cakes and doughnuts were piling up as tokens of sympathy and comfort.
“The way she was hit there was probably nothing we could have done,” White said. “I know things happen, but when they left my baby there, that’s when they committed a crime.”
White said she could forgive the driver for the accident, but not for leaving the scene.
Jones County investigators questioned several people who were driving on the quiet 35-mph stretch. The country road that connects Ga. 49 and Lite-N-Tie Road gets quite busy in the morning.
Deputies combed the pavement for clues about what kind of vehicle was responsible. Scribbles of orange paint marked points of interest on the road.
The body has been taken to the GBI crime lab in Macon and will be examined thoroughly for any shred of evidence that could be traced.
“We have very little to go on right now,” Jones County Maj. Barbara Burnette said hours after the accident.
Courtney’s grandmother wonders why children have to catch the bus so early on dark mornings.
“It’s not right,” said Sammie White, who was known as Mimi to her granddaughter.
“There have been so many kids killed. They need to wait until it lightens up.”
The teen was wearing a plaid green jacket and blue jeans but there is little light on that street. The driver may not have seen her as she ran to try to catch the bus at the next stop.
“She has a lot of friends and, God bless her, she believed in going to school,” her grandmother said. “She loved school and got killed going to school, Lord have mercy.”
The student at Jones County’s Ninth Grade Academy had plans to become a writer, and she loved making movies with her friends.
“She wrote stories and poems,” Vicki White said. “There’s no telling what I’ll find when I go through her things.”
As news of the fatal accident spread through the community, the Jones County school system sent counselors and psychologists to Courtney’s school to help grieving students.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are extended to the White family,’’ said interim superintendent Mike Newton in a news release.
Her brother will miss hearing the band Panic! At The Disco playing on her iPod every morning as he got ready for school, while her mother can’t yet imagine what life will be like without her.
They realize catching the driver won’t bring Courtney back, but it would answer some of their questions about how this happened.
“I didn’t hear a car skid or anything,” said Tyler, who had gone into the kitchen to get something to drink before he left out behind his sister.
The Jones County Sheriff’s Office has scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. today to discuss and update in the case.
"We know who it is," Burnette said but declined to provide details until this afternoon.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.