Sealock has just turned 11 three days before and was wearing a new dress, a new coat and new glasses she had received for her birthday. But the Plants never made it to school that day.
A fiery wreck on U.S. 27 nearly took their lives and kept their story on the front page of the Rome News-Tribune for days as they recovered.
Even though it has been 45 years, they still remember every detail.
The Plants had just moved out of town and were driving on U.S. 27 to school.
Plants began to slow down, and then he saw the tractor-trailer veer in front of him.
It fell and jackknifed on top of their car.
“The only thing that saved us from the initial crash itself was that space between the cab and in this case a tanker truck,” Plants said. “I closed my eyes and turned my head in fright. When I opened my eyes again, all I can see is fire.”
Plants was pinned. He sat up to free himself and went to the shoulder of the road. His head and face were still on fire. He patted out the flames with his hand. He managed to beat out the flames on his jacket, pant leg and shoes.
He got in the backseat of a car and looked at himself in the mirror.
“My face was crusty black from the burn,” Plants said.
His sister was still in the car. He yelled at some folks to go and get her.
“I wanted to know how she was,” Plants said. “Everyone would say, ‘She is fine.’ In my head, I want thinking, ‘No she’s not. She’s dead.’”
A little girl pinned
Sealock was looking around at the scenery as her big brother drove her to school when she heard a blood curdling scream.
She looked up and saw the truck hurling toward them.
“There was no time to do anything,” Sealock said. “I can remember hearing the glass breaking and the twisting of the metal and the low rumble of everything exploding.”
No one could see the tiny little girl in the sports car. The dash had fallen on her legs. Being so small she couldn’t move.
When she was removed from the vehicle, she was placed on the road. Men gave up their coats to keep the little girl warm.
“I felt like I was under a mountain of coats,” Sealock said.
She wanted a pillow to rest her head. An unknown Good Samaritan who was driving by had one in her car and left it there for the little girl. To this day, Sealock does not know who the lady was.
Her new clothes were “toast,” she said.
“You know when you have a vivid dream and you think this can’t be happening and you shake yourself and you wake up and your heart’s pounding really hard,” Sealock said. “I kept thinking this is just a dream. I am going to wake up. The picture never changed.”
In the distance she heard the sirens and knew the ambulances were coming.
The young ambulance attendant who was working on her kept saying “Oh God. Oh God,” she recalled.
She fussed when he tried to cut off her dress, a birthday present. He told her “You are not going to want this dress.”
To comfort her during the rest of the trip to the hospital, the ambulance attendant rubbed her feet.
The Plants’ parents were told they wouldn’t survive the night.
“At that time the only burn center was in Cincinnati,” Sealock said. “They thought we would die before we would get there so that’s why they wouldn’t send us.”
Both had severe burns to the left sides of their bodies and faces. Plants’ ear was burned. His hands were so severely injured that to this day, he has no movement beyond the knuckles.
The two recovered at Floyd Medical Center but didn’t see each other for days. Plants was sure his little sister was dead. Then one day they wheeled her into his hospital room.
“I have never been so glad to see anyone in my entire life,” he said.
They finished their school year in the hospital. Plants missed his high school graduation where future U.S. president Jimmy Carter was the guest speaker. His diploma was brought to him in the hospital.
Plants and Sealock still have the scars from the wreck but have recovered to lead successful lives.
Plants is GIS manager for the city of Rome. Even though the inside of his mouth was burned he can still sing and is music minister for his church.
“I feel like a very blessed man to have survived,” Plants said. “I feel like I have a purpose in life with a goal and a mission. God’s hand is on me in what I do.”
Sealock teaches at the school where she was attending at the time of the wreck, Elm Street Elementary School.
She sings and is very active.
“Maybe it’s because of what we’ve gone through,” Sealock said. “I always try to go above and beyond what’s expected. My husband calls me the overachiever.”