Julie Wood, a Cal State Fullerton student who plays the flute and the piccolo, had two career goals: to play professionally and to teach music. Her greatest musical thrill was to be a member of the All-Collegiate Marching Band for the 1984 Olympic opening ceremonies last July.
Her dreams of a professional music career, and of playing for the Olympic ceremonies, ended July 27, 1984, when a driver smashed through pedestrians on a sidewalk in Westwood the night before opening ceremonies. One person was killed and 48 were injured. The car dragged Wood half a block, breaking her pelvis, left shoulder and a finger. She will never fully recover from those injuries.
But the 22-year-old Wood is now well on her way to another goal: a career in teaching. She began student teaching this year at Garden Hill Elementary School in La Mirada and recently returned to her old part-time job teaching music to youngsters at the Montessori Child Development Center in Fullerton.
“I’m not going to let what happened ruin my life,” she said during a break at the Montessori school recently. “I don’t have the stamina to play professionally, but I’m looking forward to a teaching career.”
Doris Smith, director of the Montessori school, said everyone there is delighted to have Wood back on the staff.
“She is an incredibly gifted teacher,” Smith said. “We’re so thankful everything turned out fine for her.”
Doctors told Wood her recovery has been remarkably quick. Her physical therapy, expected to take two years, was completed in seven months.
The first two or three months after leaving the hospital she was in a wheelchair and confined to her home in Whittier, where she lives with her mother. She graduated to a walker, then a cane, and began physical therapy for her shoulder and later for the broken middle finger of her left hand. She spent almost five hours in therapy every day.
She also had to testify against the man whose car struck her, Daniel Lee Young, 21, of Inglewood. He was later convicted of murder plus 48 counts of attempted murder and sentenced to 106 years in prison.
“I couldn’t believe he could sit there in court so expressionless when I testified,” she said. “It was like he was unaware he had done anything to me at all.”
But there were good moments during her recovery, too. The Montessori school led a fund-raising drive that collected $5,000 toward her medical bills. Cal State Fullerton raised another $1,000. Those funds kept her out of debt, she said.
Wood also developed a strong friendship with Karen Beyer, a 21-year-old student at Cal State Fullerton who also was in the Olympic band and was among the pedestrians who were injured.
Wood also is getting married later this year to a man she was dating at the time of the Westwood incident.
One thing did bother Wood. All the other Olympic band members received bronze medals for their participation. She was told by the band leaders she did not get one because she never performed with the band in the opening ceremonies.
Last week Smith of the Montessori school called Olympic officials on Smith’s behalf. She got her bronze medal in the mail Friday.
“So much has happened, it (the Westwood incident) seems like years and years and years ago,” she said. “I have so much to thank God for.”