Six months after the horrific wrong-way crash, Angelica Mormile, left, and Kayla Somoles are back at the Alpha Xi Delta sorority house on BGSU's campus.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This version corrects the identification in the photo caption.
BOWLING GREEN -- When Kayla Somoles and Angelica Mormile meet people who don't know they nearly died in a wrong-way crash in March, that's just fine with them.
Since that night when their lives changed permanently and three of their friends lost their lives, they've wanted nothing more than to be themselves again, to walk and talk and look and feel normal.
"I'm proud," Ms. Somoles, 20, declared in an interview on campus Thursday. "I have every right and Angelica is just as proud. … It's amazing to be back. It's just the best feeling in the world, I think."
The two Bowling Green State University students had just left town about 2 a.m. March 2 on a long-awaited spring-break trip to the Dominican Republic when a car traveling south in the northbound lanes of I-75 struck them head-on.
Ms. Mormile, 19, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, was in the front passenger seat with Christina Goyett, the driver and her "big sister" from Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Ms. Somoles of Parma was in the back seat directly behind Ms. Mormile with two other sorority sisters.
Ms. Goyett, 19, of Bay City, Mich., was killed along with back-seat passengers Sarah Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Rebekah Blakkolb, 20, of Aurora, Ohio.
The wrong-way driver, Winifred "Dawn" Lein, 69, of Perrysburg Township, also was killed. Ms. Mormile and Ms. Somoles nearly died.
Ms. Mormile suffered a brain injury. She broke her neck, her lower jaw, her right wrist, her tibia.
When she awoke more than two weeks after the crash, she didn't know how old she was or what year it was. Her memory was so impaired, she and her family didn't know if she ever would return to BGSU. It was a scary time.
"I didn't feel like I was myself. It was like, 'Where did she go?'" Ms. Mormile recalled. "I didn't really know anything. I was just like, 'I'm here. This is what's happening. This is what's going on, and I have to work to get back to being myself.' "
She was in speech therapy much of the summer near her Cleveland-area home and feels her memory is now back to what it was.
Ms. Somoles broke every bone in her face from her temples down. Her jaw was broken in 10 places. Four teeth were knocked out. She broke her left arm and wrist, dislocated her right hip, fractured her sacrum and two ribs, broke her left big toe and her pinky toe.
She was on a ventilator to breathe because her nose was smashed so badly. It remains broken, and she's looking forward to a nose job in December.
"I can't wait to breathe normally again," Ms. Somoles said, adding that it has taken months for her face to begin looking normal again.
The BGSU students killed in the wrong-way I-75 crash are, from left, Christina Goyett, 19, of Bay City, Mich.; Sarah Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs, Ohio; and Rebekah Blakkolb, 20, of Aurora, Ohio.
For a long time after she got out of the hospital, she had to deal with people staring at her and her injuries. Just a few weeks back at college, she's thrilled that's not happening anymore.
"No one here knows," she said. "It's really cool because when I tell people I broke my face, they're like, 'No way,' and it's just like, 'Good.' "
While their physical injuries have healed, both said the emotional scars may be permanent. It's hard knowing they couldn't attend their friends' funerals.
"I do wish I got to see them one last time," Ms. Somoles said. "I think it's the hardest thing that we spent their last moments together and I can't remember it."
Ms. Somoles was told about the accident and her friends' deaths a few days after she'd been in the hospital.
"I felt like I knew subconsciously, and I was just very scared," she recalled. "That night I had 10 girls around my bed. They were there to answer any questions. They told me what I needed to hear. They were there for me."
When Ms. Mormile awoke at the hospital, her mother told her what happened to her and her friends. She still cannot remember any of it, though she believes it's a miracle she survived it.
"It's almost like I did die and came back to life, but I didn't obviously, but it's almost like that because I don't remember it," she said.
Investigators with the Ohio Highway Patrol were unable to determine why or where Lein entered the highway going the wrong way, although Dr. Douglas Hess, Wood County's coroner, theorized she must have become confused. An autopsy showed Lein had no alcohol or drugs in her system and there was no apparent medical reason for her actions.
Lt. Dean Laubacher, commander of the patrol's Bowling Green post, said Thursday the investigation into the crash was closed, though he was heartened to hear the two survivors were doing well.
The two girls never have had contact with the wrong-way driver's family. Ms. Mormile said both of them were angry at Lein at first, but they've accepted what happened and are focused on their futures.
Ms. Somoles is a junior majoring in middle childhood education with plans to be a middle-school history and language arts teacher. Ms. Mormile is a sophomore telecommunications major. She hopes to get into television news broadcasting.
"I've forgiven her," Ms. Somoles said of the wrong-way driver. "It's not going to bring my three friends back. It's not like she intentionally wanted to ruin everyone's lives and you know what, she lost her own life."
Both said the accident has taught them to appreciate simple things, to take nothing for granted.
"Both of us, we got everything taken away from us that night, so we just appreciate everything so much more now," Ms. Mormile said.
Ms. Somoles said she no longer feels invincible, though she's quick to add, "I hope this is the worst thing that ever happens to me in my life."
Ms. Somoles and Ms. Mormile will be honorary co-captains at the Falcons' football home opener against the University of Idaho at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.
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