AOL News (April 28) -- In a new memoir, former first lady Laura Bush reveals for the first time the events of a long-ago night in Texas when she was 17, when she ran a stop sign and got in a car accident that killed a high school classmate and prompted her to question her religious faith for decades.
In the book, "Spoken from the Heart," Bush describes hearing the sobs of her dead classmate's mother behind a hospital curtain that night in 1963, and how she skipped the boy's funeral and was wracked with guilt for decades. She's kept intensely private about the crash until now, even when it garnered redoubled scrutiny when her husband first ran for president.
Sky Gilbar, AP
In her new book, Laura Bush speaks out about her 1963 car accident.
Her new book was supposed to hit shelves in early May, but The New York Times says it obtained a copy at a bookstore, and ran a review in today's paper.
Bush also details other experiences she had both growing up in Midland, Texas, and as first lady.
In several passages, she admonishes her husband's political foes for "calling him names," and singles out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Their accusations that President George W. Bush lacked knowledge or leadership skills "were uncalled for and graceless," the former first lady writes.
"While a president's political opponents, as well as his supporters, are entitled to make what they see as legitimate criticisms, and while our national debates should be spirited, these particular words revealed the petty and parochial nature of some who serve in Congress," the book reads.
Bush also defends her husband's highly criticized decision to fly over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, surveying damage from the air rather than meeting with victims or helping efforts on the ground.
"He did not want one single life to be lost because someone was catering to the logistical requirements of a president," Bush writes. "He did not want his convoy of vehicles to block trucks delivering water or food or medical supplies, or to impede National Guardsmen from around the nation who were arriving to help."
One startling revelation: The former first lady suspects that an intentional poisoning was behind a "mysterious" illness that struck the Presidential couple and staff members while they were abroad in Germany for a 2007 G-8 Summit. The swiftness and strength of the illness--which ended up confining the President to his bed for part of the trip--had the Secret Service on high alert. But doctors eventually pinpointed a common virus as the cause. Still, Bush notes that: "We never learned if any other delegations became ill, or if ours, mysteriously, was the only one."
Yet arguably the most harrowing event Bush addresses is the November 6, 1963 car accident she caused that took the life of her high school classmate, a popular varsity athlete named Mike Douglas. The accident occurred when 17-year-old Laura Welch (Bush's maiden name) was behind the wheel of her father's Chevy Impala, driving with her girlfriend, Judy Dykes, to the movies. As the girls were chit-chatting, the future Mrs. Bush blew a stop sign at an intersection and hit Welch's car at 50 miles per hour.
"In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to earth," she writes. "The whole time ... I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling 'Please, God. Please, God. Please, God,' over and over and over again."
Bush writes that afterward, she lost her faith in God for "many, many years."
"It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard," she writes. "My begging, to my 17-year-old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas' sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain