Andrea Bower was in a rush to get to school so she wouldn't mess up her perfect attendance at Giunta Middle School.
Running late, she already had missed her bus pickup on the south side of Bloomingdale Avenue at Buckhorn Springs Road early Friday. But she knew if she crossed the street, the bus would loop back and pick her up on the other side and she would make it on time.
The 13-year-old girl darted for the other side of the busy four-lane road.
She never made it.
Andrea was struck by a Ford sport utility vehicle driven by Stephanie Akins of Riverview about 8:30 a.m. Friday – the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break.
The teenager was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where she died this afternoon. Her father was at her side.
As doctors worked in vain to save her life, crisis teams from the Hillsborough County School District met with about 20 Giunta students. Two groups of students – those waiting to board the bus and those already on board – saw Andrea get struck as she tried to cross the street.
The 30-year-old Akins saw her, too, but there was nothing she could do. She tried to swerve to the right at the last moment, but the left side of her vehicle still hit the girl.
"It didn't even feel real for a second. I felt her body on my car," a distraught Akins said after the incident. "I tried, but I couldn't stop it."
Akins, who had two of her own small children in her vehicle, immediately got out of her Ford to see what she could do. It was cold and lightly raining at the time.
"She was this pretty little girl," she said. "I was hoping she was breathing. I was hoping she was OK.
"She was cold, so I put a blanket on her," Akins added. "She was breathing, but there was a lot of blood."
It was Arlene Castelli's last day as principal at Giunta before reporting to Williams Middle Magnet when school resumes. She spent part of the day at Tampa General with Andrea's family.
Castelli did not wish to comment; neither did anyone else at the school.
Wanda Miller, a neighbor of Andrea and her family, drove Andrea's mother to the hospital so she could be with her daughter.
She said the 13-year-old was a unique girl who dresses with her own flair and style.
"She has a heart of gold," Miller said.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon said that the school district has bus stops on each side of Bloomingdale Avenue so students don't have to navigate treacherous traffic conditions to catch a ride.
"Unfortunately, because she missed the bus, she was trying to do the right thing," McKinnon said. "There was a car coming, she didn't see it, and she got hit."
Detectives said it appears Akins was driving within the speed limit and was not at fault.
Family friend Lisa Kearney came to the scene Friday morning to try to retrieve the girl's purple book bag.
"It's devastating. It's horrible," she said.