Teen Julia Bertoli has no memory of the Sebastopol crash that nearly killed her last summer and sparked an outcry about pedestrian safety.
Asked to recall those events, the 16-year-old turned to her mother at the Petaluma apartment complex where they live and in a slow, almost childlike way, asks whether she died and came back.
In a way, she did.
The Julia that once loved to ride horses now walks with a noticeable limp, her right arm tensed at her side.
The Julia that could speak French with fluency can no longer read, or recall what was said to her five minutes ago.
The Julia that was quick to laugh is now quick to cry, as she vaguely realizes that whatever happened last summer took something precious from her.
"She wants to know why she looks different," her mother, Valerie Bertoli, said. "She looks at a picture and says, &‘I was so pretty. I'm ugly now.'"
The violent collision that reordered her life a year ago sent a shock through the small town of Sebastopol, where the Bertolis are a well-known family and where concerns about pedestrian safety had been raised for years, including at the intersection where Julia was hit.
A lawsuit filed by the family that accuses various government agencies of creating dangerous conditions that led to the crash also has sparked controversy over who should be held responsible for a crash that did not result in anyone being charged with a crime.
But at the heart of it is the story of a girl who was coming into her own and is now facing a very different future.
Wearing a black sleeveless shirt and psychedelic green pants, Julia could have been just another teen lounging by the pool this week. Her fashionable sunglasses were perched atop her head, revealing big brown eyes, which at the moment were trained on her iPhone.
It was only when she spoke or moved around that the extent of her injuries became apparent.
The force of the July 3 collision threw Julia nearly 40 feet, crashing her head-first into the pavement. She wasn't breathing when the first Sebastopol police officer arrived on the scene. He had to use a bag mask to help open the teen's airway until other medical help arrived.
At the hospital, doctors opened up Julia's skull to relieve pressure caused by internal bleeding. She also broke two vertebrae and had a fracture near her left eye, according to her family.
Valerie Bertoli was on her way to San Francisco to attend a baseball game when she got the call to go to the hospital.
She recalled those desperate days at her only child's bedside hoping that things would be all right.
"All you want is a sign, that she's going to wake up in two days or two months — something," she said. "But all you hear in intensive care is, &‘We don't know. We don't know.' So you worry."
Julia spent three months at Memorial before being transferred to Children's Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, where she began the arduous task of relearning how to live, including basic things like swallowing.
She finally went home to Petaluma in December, only to find that she didn't recognize what once was familiar.