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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: A senior girl at my school was tragically killed in a car accident over Super Bowl weekend. She wasn't wearing her seatbelt and was thrown from the car. The car rolled on top of her and crushed her. Her boyfriend was with her. I heard that before she died, he took her hand and she told him she loved him. It just blew me away. My cousin was killed a year ago in much the same way.

My family has read your articles for years, but one touched us deeply. It was an essay about a teen who was killed in a car accident, and he was only 17. I am only 17 and so was the girl who died. Please print it again to remind us of the fact that we're only mortal and should cherish every waking day. -- BARRY W. IN KENNEWICK, WASH.

DEAR BARRY: That piece is titled, "Please God, I'm Only 17," and it's the most requested piece in the history of the column. Young people have written to me to confirm that it made them think twice about their driving habits and encouraged them to be careful. You are right; it should run at least once a year, so here it is:

PLEASE GOD, I'M ONLY 17

The day I died was an ordinary school day. How I wish I had taken the bus. But I was too cool for the bus. I remember how I wheedled the car out of Mom. "Special favor," I pleaded. "All the kids drive."

When the 2:50 bell rang, I threw all my books in the locker. I was free until 8:40 tomorrow morning! I ran to the parking lot, excited at the thought of driving a car and being my own boss. Free!

It doesn't matter how the accident happened. I was goofing off -- going too fast -- taking crazy chances. But I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard the deafening crash and felt a terrible jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream.

Suddenly I awakened; it was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. Then I saw a doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Strange that I couldn't feel anything.

Hey, don't pull that sheet over my head! I can't be dead. I'm only 17. I've got a date tonight. I'm supposed to grow up and have a wonderful life. I haven't lived yet. I can't be dead!

Later I was placed in a drawer. My folks had to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at Mom's eyes when she faced the most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked like an old man. He told the man in charge, "Yes, he is my son."

The funeral was a weird experience. I saw all my relatives and friends walk toward the casket. They passed by, one by one, and looked at me with the saddest eyes I've ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of the girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked away.

Please -- somebody -- wake me up! Get me out of here! I can't bear to see my mom and dad so broken up. My grandparents are so racked with grief they can hardly walk. My brothers and sisters are like zombies. They move like robots. In a daze, everybody. No one can believe this. And I can't believe it, either.

Please don't bury me! I'm not dead! I have a lot of living to do! I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please don't put me in the ground. I promise if you give me one more chance, God, I'll be the most careful driver in the whole world. All I want is one more chance!

Please, God, I'm only 17!

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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