It must have been about half way through the year in Mr. Allen's fourth grade class at P.S. 185 when Crystal arrived. I recall she had moved up from Florida with her mum. She was quiet and demure but she was confident. And when she spoke, she spoke deliberately with a fleck of a southern accent that naturally the entire class found absolutely hysterical and incredibly odd; fourth graders can be quite cruel. I could see her on a wraparound porch in Florida drinking a mint julep and twirling a parasol. Even at that age, that's what her voice sung. A nine or ten year old from Florida has already grown up vastly different than a nine or ten year old from Brooklyn has. Using what I know now Crystal was like a JonBenét type; a cute little girl who grew up winning child beauty pageants, destined for the stage and screen.
I don't remember much else about Crystal, sadly. But when a friend of mine told me about her accident the name rang a bell and suddenly all this stuff came flooding back into focus. Funny how the catacombs of the mind work. Like a mental pack rat, a memory hoarder, all this stuff is buried in piles among piles inside your head, some stuff you'll never need to access again, but then one day someone shines a flashlight in there and suddenly you're sitting on the floor of your storage space brain reading old newspaper clippings, dusting off old love letters and laughing at mix tape track listings.
I remembered this little pixie in fourth grade walking bravely into the classroom, you know that camaraderie, its not easy to walk in late to the party from a different part of town. She was a fish out of water. I can recall Mr. Allen yelling at her once or twice but only because I remember her name "Crystal". It wasn't a name you heard very often growing up in Brooklyn and Mr. Allen was pretty high strung. He would take breaks from reading us The Lion, the Witch and the goddamn Wardrobe to scream at us. He wore ski lodge sweaters, tan khaki pants and grey and blue New Balance sneakers. I think they fired him the following year.
Crystal and I fell out of touch and she became an actress. I was looking at her resume and it just made me sad. Seemed like she was landing work and doing well in a few soap operas, Saturday Night Live and a bunch of television shows. Plus she was one of my AFTRA sisters.
Crystal and her mum must have been driving down south for Thanksgiving when she got into an accident on the Turnpike near Linden, New Jersey.
Authorities said Crystal was traveling southbound in the truck lane around 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21st when she lost control of her 1997 Dodge Neon and crashed into a tractor trailer that was also traveling southbound.
Crystal's mum, Violet, was treated for hip and rib injuries at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Hospital in New Brunswick. Police said the 58-year-old truck driver from Sayreville was not injured.
Crystal, however, was pronounced dead at the scene. She was 29-years old.
Friends and family of Crystal have organised a memorial for her this Saturday at Lutheran Trinity Church on the corner of 90th and 3rd. It begins at 2 p.m.