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Posted: September 17, 2015

Nursing student’s phone helps family heal after deadly crash

Haily Clark cried every time her family left Georgia Southern University after visiting her older sister, Emily. (Family photo)
Haily Clark cried every time her family left Georgia Southern University after visiting her older sister, Emily. (Family photo)

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            Nursing student’s phone helps family heal after deadly crash
This photo of Emily Clark, left, and her sister, Haily, was found on Emily’s phone months after the fatal crash. (Family photo)

            Nursing student’s phone helps family heal after deadly crash
Emily Clark’s phone was dirty, but otherwise worked fine when it was returned to her family. (Family photo)

By Alexis Stevens

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Haily Clark just knew it.

Even though her big sister was one of five Georgia Southern University nursing students killed in a horrific crash, Haily believed that somehow, one piece of Emily’s life had survived.

Her cellphone.

“Her sister kept saying her phone is there,” Kathy Clark, Haily and Emily’s mother, said Thursday. “We said, ‘No, it got destroyed.’”

Even after visiting the site of the April 22 Interstate 16 crash that killed Emily Clark and five classmates, Haily wasn’t convinced. She even had a dream, she told her parents, that the phone was found near Emily’s grave.

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“I know that was Emily saying my phone is still alive,” Haily told her parents.

The wreck that killed 20-year-old Emily also claimed the lives of Morgan Bass, 20, of Leesburg, Abbie Deloach, 21, of Savannah, Catherine “McKay” Pittman, 21, of Alpharetta, and Caitlyn Baggett, 21, of Millen. Emily’s parents couldn’t imagine a phone surviving the crash.

But a phone call one week ago changed everything. It was the Cobb County family’s lawyer, saying he had received from police some items from the crash site. Included was a phone in a turquoise case. It was Emily’s.

“That’s Emily’s phone,” Kathy Clark said. “We just knew by looking at it.”

The family was amazed that the iPhone still worked. Still in one piece, it hardly looked like it had been through a wreck.

“It’s dirty, that’s all,” Kathy Clark said. “We don’t know how or where it was.”

On the phone, the family read several text messages from the day of the crash, friends and even a professor wanting assurance that Emily was OK. She didn’t live to respond.

But more important to the family are the pictures, hundreds of them, that Emily had saved on her phone. Family pictures from the Clark’s family visit to see Emily during her freshman year in Statesboro, and many other shots the Clarks had never seen.

It’s a gift the family never imagined it would receive, but one the three are grateful to have. Life without Emily has been an adjustment. The outpouring of support helps them make it through the darkest times, Kathy Clark said.

Recently, a scholarship was created in Emily’s name at Harrison High School, where she was an honor student and varsity cheerleader. Even strangers have reached out to the family with prayers.

“It’s just remarkable, and it’s all because of the people she affected through her life,” her mother said. “She’s even affecting people she didn’t know. That helps us get through.”

Fall was always Emily’s favorite time of year, her family said. From football games to cooler weather, she loved it all.

And although she didn’t live to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse, Emily’s family knows her legacy will live on.

“God doesn’t make mistakes,” Kathy Clark said. “He knew that day he was taking them. And he knew that they had jobs they would still be doing.”

 
 

 

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