BETHALTO -- "Please drive slowly. We (heart) our children."
That sign is beneath the posted speed limit on Walnut Ridge Drive near the back of the house where Aimee Brown and Shawn Long live in Bethalto. Just before dawn Saturday, a speeding truck crashed through the wall of 1129 Albers Lane where Brown's twin daughters normally sleep. Fortunately, the girls were spending the weekend with their dad.
The bedroom that 4 1/2-year-old Ellah and Sophee Brown share is typical of little girls, with Disney princess decorations, pink bedspreads and curtains, and pale yellow walls. What wasn't typical Saturday morning was the white bookcase standing on end with its contents spilled on the floor and the pieces of drywall scattered on the floor, loosened from the impact of the truck crashing through the wall.
"I tripped on this piece of vent in the hall," Brown said, holding up a piece of plastic used to deflect airflow. The distance from the vent to the hall is about 16 feet.
Long said the truck's front bumper was 2 to 3 feet into the girls' room. "I don't know how fast someone would have to be driving for that to happen." He added the impact damaged the house's foundation and sub-flooring, as well as causing a 30- to 40-foot section of the outside wall to bow.
"We don't have any idea how much this is going to cost to fix. The insurance adjuster will be out Monday and we have friends who own a remodeling business who will be out then, too," he said.
Brown and Long were awakened about 4 a.m. when they heard a loud crash. Brown called 9-1-1 and Long went outside to see what happened, where he found "someone doing chest compressions on someone else lying in the yard."
That person ran off, telling Long he had to "go find my friend." Bethalto police arrived just then and apprehended him.
"The driver told police he'd been drinking. I could smell the alcohol as soon as I went outside. It (the truck) reeked," Long said.
Long said the glass in the truck's back window was broken on the passenger side where the passenger was ejected and he believes there were a couple people sitting in the truck's bed. A utility box on the corner of Walnut Ridge Drive and Albers Lane apparently had been run over by the truck when the driver lost control of the vehicle.
"There were beer cans in the back of the truck," Brown said. "I don't think these kids have any idea what they did. I don't think they realize how devastating this was and how much worse it could have been if my daughters had been home."
Brown and Long have their children the same alternating weekends so when Long's 9-year-old daughter, Maddi, is there, she shares the room with the twins. His son, Chase, 13, sleeps on the couch.
"This weekend was supposed to be a split visitation. Maddi was supposed to stay with me Friday night but she stayed at her mom's. Had I had my daughter here last night, she would have been in the room," Long said.
"Our lives have changed because of this and the consequences of their actions. We wish them no ill will and I hope they are OK if they've been injured, but we do hope they suffer the consequences of their actions," Long said.