AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) - When you first meet 14-year-old Briana Francois, you receive no inkling of what she's gone through this past year.
"Honestly, I feel like if it was meant to happen, I can deal with it. And I can live with it," she said.
Last June, Briana Francois and her friend, Erin Suszynski, were crossing busy Maple Road, just blocks from their house, on their way home from the park. The nearest crosswalk is a quarter-mile away and people in the neighborhood say no one uses it.
They didn't make it all the way across the street. Erin was killed. Briana, in many ways, was lucky to make it out of the hospital.
"I had a frontal-lobe concussion. So my personality kind of shifted," she said.
And while she is an extremely positive, naturally happy person, she admits that sometimes, she has to force it.
"I may come off kind of numb to it. And kind of peachy-keen. But it's not," Briana said. "I don't remember much. But when I do, it's going to be hard."
The hardest part is dealing with the fact her friend is gone.
"I guess what I'm most afraid of happening, is I'll forget her. Because I forget so many things," Briana said.
Erin's family is now fighting to have the county to install a crosswalk in the spot of the accident. Briana supports their fight. And in her own way, fights for Erin's memory.
"The gist of what she brought to a room, will forever be with me. Her smiles. Her laughter," Briana said, not realizing she had begun to shed tears.
Briana is learning she doesn't always have to be happy.
Briana spoke Monday night to the Amherst Town Board at an emotional meeting, making a plea for the crosswalk to be built. Several board members were affected by that emotion and say they'll recommend to Erie County to pursue it.
Erin's father, Jerry Suszynski said, "You know we do our best. I miss the girl - I can't even tell you."
Jerry says the county isn't cooperating. But a town board member said he wasn't aware the Suszynski family hit roadblocks with the county in their efforts to get the crosswalk. And after Monday night's meeting, many on the town board are behind their cause.
Though 11 months have passed since the accident, Jerry still avoids the spot where his daughter was killed, just a block from his home. But he knows others haven't been deterred by his daughter's accident.
"In an hour's time last summer, I think I saw 30 kids go across that road. That's 60 times they took a chance," Jerry said.
Erin and Briana were just 13. They crossed the first two lanes of traffic then waited. One car stopped and waived them through. But a Jeep drove around it and struck them both. Erin's family wants to prevent the same thing from happening to anyone else.
Erin's dad says it's just unrealistic to expect kids to walk down to the nearest crosswalk a quarter-mile away and back every time they go to the park.
"You know what, that'll never happen," he said.
The Suszynskis have privately raised more than enough money to install a lighted crosswalk. But the county hasn't allowed it to happen yet. Some worry if they do, it would mean admitting fault and the Suszynskis could win their lawsuit against Erie County and Amherst.
Town board member Steven Sanders doesn't think a lawsuit should prevent the crosswalk from going in.
"It would be a tremendous pity if litigation prevented us from acting on something we should be acting on," Sanders said.
For Erin's family, they hope that sentiment means they're finally making progress.
An Erie County spokesperson said the county will perform a traffic study - a necessary step before installing a crosswalk - if the town asks for it. Board member Sanders says they likely will ask.
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