On the same bus ride that would claim her life, 17-year-old Sarah Harmening took the time to write one last journal entry.
“I was just sitting here on the bus feeling a little sad,” she wrote. “I guess because I was going to be gone for so long and I was a little uncomfortable.”
But after she prayed and read from her Bible, things were looking up for Harmening.
“I was just reminded of why I am here,” she wrote, “and that God has called me here and that he has done this for a reason, so I know he’s going to do incredible things.”
Harmening was traveling Thursday to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with her church mission group from Huntsville, Alabama, when the charter bus carrying them crossed into the opposite lane and collided with a vehicle, according to authorities. While others on the bus were injured — at least nine people including the bus driver remained hospitalized Friday night, there was one lone fatality: Sarah Harmening.
Harmening and 37 others from Huntsville’s Mount Zion Baptist Church were on their way to the airport to catch a flight to Botswana for a 10-day mission trip.
“She was so excited,” Harmening’s mother, Karen, told reporters in a press conference Friday when she read from Sarah’s journal. “She earned all the money to go and share Christ with the children.”
Earlier in the day before she and her group left their homes, Harmening texted her friends a Bible verse, and told them, “We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment and it’s not about us. Life is not about us. It’s about God, who is eternal, so I want to dedicate the one moment I’m here completely and entirely to him.”
Community lends aid
Churches in the Atlanta-area reportedly rallied to lend support to the church group, providing their homes and Chick-fil-A meals, according to a Facebook post by Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Pastor Warren Henry, chaplain for the city of South Fulton, met the American Red Cross response team at the scene, and opened the doors of his church, Kingdom of God International Ministry, to the group.
“We’re grateful for this opportunity for all those who have come, all those who have helped,” Henry said at the press conference. “For just making what is such a hard time for this family a whole lot easier at this moment.”
Asked for his reaction to the community’s response, Fulton County Police Deputy Chief Darryl Halbert said, “We’re a community-oriented organization. Seeing that is not surprising for us, it’s just something we enjoy seeing, and it lends credence to the fact that they understand that we have to work together.”
Investigation is ongoing
Halbert told reporters at a separate press conference Friday that the Fulton County Police Department is investigating the fatal crash.
He said that authorities received a call at 3:45 pm that an accident had occurred involving a bus and two other vehicles.
The bus was traveling east on Camp Creek Parkway, Halbert said. “At some point, the bus lost control, crossed into the westbound lanes on Camp Creek, where it collided with another vehicle,” he said.
Possible charges and the cause of the accident have yet to be released, pending the investigation, Halbert said. Investigators will be conducting a reconstruction of the accident scene, Halbert said.
According to Halbert, investigators have yet to interview the driver of the bus. He remains in the hospital along with other injured passengers. The occupants of the other vehicles involved in the accident received treatment, and both were released, Halbert said.