Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When yet another vehicle strikes another child heading to school October 18, 2017

A teen was struck on busy Second Avenue (pictured here intersecting with Minnesota State Highway 60), several blocks north of this Faribault intersection. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015.


IF YOU’VE EVER EXPERIENCED trauma, you understand how a news story can trigger difficult memories.

Tuesday morning a vehicle struck a 13-year-old girl as she crossed a busy Faribault street on the way to her bus stop. Conscious, but incoherent, she was airlifted to a Twin Cities trauma center with unknown injuries.

Now the 54-year-old male driver of the 1998 Lincoln Navigator that hit the girl faces possible charges. According to news reports, he drove his vehicle around the right side of vehicles stopped for the teen at the Second Avenue crosswalk.

When I heard the news, my mind flashed back to May 12, 2006, the date a car hit my then 12-year-old son as he crossed a busy Faribault street on the way to his bus stop.

The similarities end in the commonality of Faribault Middle School students struck on busy streets around 7:30 a.m. while going to bus stops.

My son suffered only minor injuries of a broken bone in his hand, a possible rib fracture and a bump on his head after bouncing off the windshield of a blue 4-door car, possibly a Chevy Cavalier or Corsica. That driver left the scene and has never been found despite police follow-ups on many leads and a $1,000 reward offer (now expired).

In the years since that May morning when fear gripped my heart, I’ve sometimes wondered about that motorist. How could he/she drive away from my boy, just leave him lying on the side of the road? Police suspect, and I agree, that the driver had something to hide, a reason to continue on.



I still keep a file of email exchanges with police, newspaper clippings, medical bills, insurance documents, the accident report, the reward flier and even handwritten get well cards crafted by children to my son. This incident is part of my family’s history now, part of our story.

I changed on that May morning 11 years ago. I lost some faith in the goodness of people. For awhile I was angry, driven to find the man or woman who failed to stop. I couldn’t understand the lack of compassion and still can’t. But my resolve to find the individual lessened as the years passed, replaced by an acknowledgment that I likely will never have answers.

Still, on days like Tuesday when I hear of another child struck on her way to school, the memories rise, strong and painful.


FYI: Click here to read an award-winning poem I wrote about the hit-and-run involving my son.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


25 Responses to “When yet another vehicle strikes another child heading to school”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Your sharing your family story is powerful. I’m glad your son healed from his injuries. I hope the girl can heal too but it sounds horrific.

  2. Chanda Says:

    Sorry that your family had to suffer such a trying time. I’m so thankful to the Lord your boy recovered.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Oh my goodness. I am so sorry to hear about this young girl and the accident that happened in your town. I am praying for her recovery and for the entire situation. Of course the memories flooded back for you as is quite natural. What a harrowing time for your family and I am so thankful that Caleb was not hurt any worse than he was. That is something that you will never ever forget for as long as you live.

  4. What To Expect When... Says:

    It seems cruel to me that our minds replay tragic events, even ones that happened years ago, over and over again. But on the other hand, if our minds had no memory of the past at all that would not be good either.

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    It is interesting how much depth of understanding we have when we have experienced something that another is going through. I hope this young girl recovers, though as you know, it will have some kind of impact of change on her and her family. Life is never the same after such a tragedy. And I am glad Caleb’s injuries were not life threatening. What I connected with mostly on this post, was the anger you dealt with, and trying to understand the lack of compassion and maybe the knowledge that justice would never be served. These are hurdles I face in many ways. I have to remind myself that we all experience so many of the same issues regarding our belief systems (justice being served and that people should be compassionate and caring and do the right thing) and the process we go through (anger) in trying to deal with what happened to us. I felt very connected to your story, but in an entirely different experience. Memories do carry some “strong and painful” emotions, but I think that can be used for a good thing too. Your thoughts and prayers reach out and they make a difference.

    • Thank you, Lori, for sharing your insights. I know you “get it” and that you have experienced much pain in your life. But I look at you and I see a strong, compassionate and kind woman. You, too, are making a positive difference.

  6. Valerie Says:

    Wow, I’m so sorry to hear about your son’s accident but so grateful he recovered from his injuries. I can only imagine the memories flooding back after hearing news of the young girl being struck the other morning. I, too, will also pray for her recovery, and for your family as you re-live this terrible experience.

  7. In sharing your story it makes a powerful impact – sorry that you, your son and your family had to go through that experience. There is too many stories like this in the news lately, especially with a child being involved. Sending prayers

  8. Jackie Says:

    Is there no street light at that intersection? I pray that girl will be ok, how scary for her family! I can see why this brings back the day Caleb was struck by a car, I’m so thankful his injuries were not life threatening. We all need to slow down and be aware!

    • I don’t think lighting was an issue in this incident. The issue, according to police reports, was that the driver reportedly passed stopped vehicles on the right side. Those motorists were stopped, waiting for the girl as she crossed the street in the crosswalk.

      Yesterday afternoon she was listed in critical condition.

  9. One never forgets tragedy.
    I’m so sorry you had to go thru that, Audrey.
    Sometimes life can be unexpected and frightening.
    …I’m happy you are still living, loving, giving, and kind)) ! xx

  10. My heart goes out to you and your experience–how horrific it must have been. I’m so thankful you still have him with you. I’m a firm believer that we reap what we sow in this life, and I can’t help but think the driver of that car will pay in ways we may never know.

  11. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    That’s horrible I can’t even imagine… and such a thoughtless crime

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