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25 years later, Ole Miss alum reflects on Chi Omega tragedy

“Out on Highway 6, below the five white crosses, beneath five memorial dogwoods, a marker bears all their names. Margaret Emily Gardner. Mary Pat Langford. Elizabeth Gage Roberson. Robin Renee Simmons. Ruth Hess Worsham.”

The tragic story of how five Ole Miss sorority sisters lost their lives 25 years ago is told in the May issue of “O, The Oprah Magazine.” Paige Williams, narrative journalist and former member of Chi Omega, describes the devastating events that took place March 26, 1987, in her article, "We Thought the Sun Would Always Shine on Our Lives."

Williams describes in perfect detail the cool, spring day when the girls of Chi Omega participated in a walkathon down Highway 6 to benefit the Mississippi Kidney Foundation. It was also the day when a truck towing a two-ton hay baler slammed into the car following behind the walkers, injuring 16 of the girls and killing five of them.

The article begins by painting an accurate picture of Oxford, Ole Miss and Ole Miss sororities. Williams also introduces us to the girls who were her Chi Omega sisters. Two of the girls, Robin and Margaret, are given a little extra attention and are described as having a special bond that unified them long before they became sorority sisters.

“Robin and Margaret were whatever lies beyond best friends. Inseparable since sixth grade, they were almost one person: MargaretandRobin, RobinandMargaret. Chi O had made their sisterhood official... Both were cheerleaders, class favorites. Both seemed to live on the balls of their feet.”

She then tells of the day of the walkathon, the day that a tragic accident took five of her friends from her forever. She is painfully yet honestly descriptive when writing of the moments during and after the crash.

“Sixteen of the 20 girls lay up and down the highway in a debris field of glass, chains, hair, and blood, their arms and legs flayed open, their bones broken and shattered.”

The story then travels to the present, when Williams discusses searching for and visiting the survivors of that day. She shares her conversations with the women: Mary Helen, who had to undergo a leg amputation above the knee, Maggie, who broke her pelvis in four places and Snowe, who did not suffer any injuries at all, but who stood right next to two of her friends as they were swept away from her in the crash.

Although the story she tells is harrowing, Williams manages to convey a slight feeling of optimism while ending on an inspiring note.

“Yet losing them also taught us we were more resilient than we knew, in large part because we had each other.”

To read the entire story, click here.