When the calls kept going to voice mail, Charity Walker told herself her daughter was just acting up. Ignoring her. Rebelling.
But she knew that wasn't her Hope, and she knew what that meant. The sirens confirmed it.
Each day since Monday, when 18-year-old Hope rolled her truck on a gravel road, Charity and her family have been at Creighton University Medical Center. She tells her daughter she loves her; the doctors say Hope can hear them. She kisses her daughter's cheek and asks her to wake up.
Charity wants to surround her daughter with her favorite things, brighten her room for the day she wakes up, but her things are gone.
On Christmas Eve morning, while the family stood by Hope in Omaha, their home in West Point caught fire. Between the flames and smoke, it was a total loss.
A few days before that, Charity's husband, Ed, lost his job.
West Point has rallied to the Walkers. People throughout town are setting up funds for the family and looking for a place they can stay when they come back from Omaha. But Charity can't think about those things now.
“I just want my daughter to live,” she said. “I just want my daughter to be awake. I want her to be Hope.”
Hope was supposed to get home from her boyfriend's house around 2 p.m. Monday. When she didn't show, Charity started to worry. She called Hope's cellphone but got no answer. Hope knew Mom was a worrier. She knew better.
They were supposed to go car shopping that afternoon, a Christmas present to reward Hope's hard work. The senior at West Point-Beemer High School had been going to school and juggling her extracurricular activities with two jobs to save as much as she could for a car. Her parents agreed to match the $400 she saved and help her buy a car as long as she quit one of those jobs so they could see her more.
Charity called Hope's boyfriend in hopes that her daughter just lost track of the time. But he confirmed she should've already been home. They both set out to look for her.
At 2:15 p.m., sheriff's deputies were called to a one-car accident on K Road in Cuming County.The driver was ejected after losing control of the Ford Ranger she was driving. A passer-by found her on the roadside and covered her until the ambulance came.
Hope was already on her way to the hospital before Charity or Hope's boyfriend found the wreck. Charity heard the sirens before she got there. “I didn't really believe it was my daughter,” she said.
But it was her husband's pickup truck flipped over at the accident scene.
Hope was taken by helicopter to Creighton University Medical Center. She's been in the intensive care unit since. She had her first surgery right away. The doctors used words like “great” and “fantastic” to describe how it went.
The prognosis was optimistic enough that Charity's family decided not to keep from her the next piece of bad news: a call had come into West Point's fire station at 9:05 a.m. on Christmas Eve. Their home on Ash Street was on fire.
Fire Chief Tom Stratman said the cause was electrical, and there was extensive smoke damage. Nobody was home.
Her other children would've been there waiting for news about their sister, but they decided to drive to their grandparents' house in Omaha the night before. They lost their Shih Tzu, Lily, and likely all their possessions.
Christmas came and went, and Charity hardly noticed.
Then the news about Hope turned grim.
By Friday she had her third surgery as doctors tried to relieve swelling in her brain. She is still unresponsive. Charity noticed the doctor's vocabulary changed: We've done all we can. People have wakened from comas. She isn't brain dead.
“They said hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” Charity said.
As the Walker family focused on Hope Friday, friends and neighbors in West Point have started to organize help.
Funds have been set up for the family's benefit at Wells Fargo and F&M Bank. Churches spoke of the family at their Christmas services and let people know where they can help. Clothing drives are underway to replace some of what they've lost.
Pastor Chris Meier at Grace Lutheran Church, who's been helping to organize support for the family, said help has been coming from everywhere and it's badly needed — both material and spiritual.
“Any prayers people can offer are certainly welcomed and gladly received,” he said.
Charity said she's seen this week how much her daughter is loved, and that is a comfort. She also knows God will provide.
None of the family has been back yet to see the house, but they've been told how bad it is. She is still in disbelief and worries most about losing Hope's possessions. But when people have been coming to the hospital, she's asked them to go home and start prayer chains focused on Hope's recovery. She's leaving it all in God's hands.
“I really trust in him to take care of it,” she said. “I don't have any other choice.”
Correction: Fire Chief Tom Stratman's name was incorrect in a previous version of this story.