The sole survivor, a 15-year-old girl, remains at Grady Memorial Hospital with serious injuries.
“(Katrina’s) mom (Yolanda) was very strict about curfews and things like that because I mean, she’s still a little girl. She didn’t just let her go anywhere without permission,” Katrina’s aunt, Rita Owens, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by phone Friday morning. “At the time, she didn’t even know she was even in the car.”
As a freshman, Katrina played on the school lacrosse team and planned to join the dance team. Every morning, she would listen to music and write motivational quotes on her mirror as she prepared to take the bus to school. Currently on her mirror is written “Smile every day” and “I (heart) me.”
The last time Rita saw Katrina was that morning. When she came home from work, she expected to greet Katrina like every other day.
But when Katrina wasn’t home, Rita knew something was wrong. She and Katrina’s mother started calling and texting her. It was rare for Katrina to go unresponsive, Rita said.
When the younger brother of another student involved in the sinking knocked on their door and told them his sister was in the hospital, that’s when Katrina’s family began to worry.
They started calling hospital after hospital. At one point, Yolanda decided to go to the hospital to check on Katrina, but she soon received a call from authorities asking her to go home, Rita said.
“We were hoping she was in jail,” Rita said. “We were hoping for something like this instead of the actual news we received.”
Coming to terms with reality was far from easy. Rita said nothing felt the same anymore. Katrina was constantly talking, sharing her day, and always brightening up the room she walked into.
“It was never a dull moment in the house as long as she was there. There was always a kind of good energy that was brought in whenever she was there, you could feel it,” Rita said .
Planning a funeral is the last thing the family wants to think about. Barely able to enter Katrina’s room, which she shared with her younger sister, the family is not ready to say goodbye to her.
“He just comes around when you really have to put the body away and realize the whole concept that she’s not there,” Rita said. “She’s still young, she hasn’t even had a life to live. It’s always shocking.