WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - 9 Wants You To Know what's happened to the local woman whose story captivated the nation. The teenager was in a car videotaping a night out with friends when the unimaginable happened and three lives changed dramatically in a matter of six seconds.
Andrea McCarren has been following her story for almost a year now and is here with a heartbreaking update.
Our report on Desaleen James and her efforts to stop other teenagers from drinking touched so many people. And now, the young woman who inspired so many others by sharing her story now needs help herself.
"I'm grateful for my life, without a doubt, but I just sometimes I go back and I'm just like where I'm at now, it would have been better if I had died," said Desaleen.
Desaleen James was just 18 years old, in the front passenger seat of a friend's car, videotaping the chilling aftermath of a night of partying.
Police estimate the three young friends were barreling along a city street at 94 miles per hour, in a 40 mile per hour zone. Their youthful exuberance, shattered in a matter of seconds.
Desaleen's video camera continued to roll, documenting the aftermath, as her twin sister and rescue workers came upon the grisly scene.
Desaleen was the only survivor.
"I don't know. Maybe I'm here to save someone else's life," she told us
a few months after the crash, which broke her hip and left her traumatized. She and back seat passenger Tamara Johnson were best friends and roommates.
"It's been really, really, really, really hard like, going from being with her every day, to not at all. It's horrible," she said.
Desaleen says Tamara, who didn't drink alcohol, had urged the driver to slow down moments before impact.
"My life has gone completely downhill. I don't have family, like people I can depend on. It's me alone out here in this world," Desaleen said.
Desaleen courageously told her story so other teenagers wouldn't have to live it. She was shocked, as we were, at some of the reaction.
"The criticism was just unbelievable. It was unbearable at times. People would say the most hurtful stuff....[like that] I'm a snitch. Informer. "
A snitch because she outed the nightclub where she and her friends got drunk before the crash and talked about the ease with which teenagers could buy booze.
We asked her, How often do you think to yourself, why me? Why did I survive?Her response: "Every day. Every day. And I still haven't gotten any answers."
Desaleen plunged into a deep depression and a downward spiral of drinking. She lost her cashier's job because her injuries made it too painful to stand for nine hours a day. Then, she lost her apartment because she couldn't work, so she moved in with her mother, who threw her out when she learned Desaleen was pregnant.
"I'm now pregnant, with a little baby boy," said Desaleen.
"I lost family, that's the part that hit me the most," she said. "I know I kind of messed up in life, but now is the time when I need you the most. Everybody turned their backs on me. Except for my twin sister"
Now depending on the kindness of friends and even strangers, Desaleen is in desperate need of a permanent place to live for herself and her unborn baby.
"I want him so bad," she said of the child she is carrying. "I feel like he's going to change everything for me. He's just going to be my reason for smiling."
She's determined to build a better life for her son, who's due in April.
"He's gonna like change my focus a little bit from my dark past to my bright future... He won't judge me. He'll just be like wow, Mom, you're strong," she said.
And despite the adversity she's faced, Desaleen still wants to share her story with others.
"All I want to do is just like help other people. Don't make the same mistakes that I did. Cause you don't want to be in this position," she said. "You don't want to be the one in the passenger seat looking at your friends in that state."
We do want to be clear: Desaleen did not ask us for help. But she knows she's in a difficult situation. Even though she's pregnant, she's lost 25 pounds. She wants to go back to college and get another job, so she can provide for her unborn son.
We have reached out to some local social service organizations to see what they may be able to do to help her, and we'd also welcome any other ideas from our viewers.