The two women, a Franklin Square resident and her aunt, were anchoring the massive Buzz Lightyear balloon, marveling at the crowds who clapped and cheered them and other marchers in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade .
"Everything was wonderful, it couldn't have been better," Keri O'Connell said. "We were having the best time."
The next thing she knew, O'Connell said she was facedown on the ground after being hit by one of the cars that follows the giant balloons throughout the parade. It had driven onto her leg, crushing her right foot. Police later pointed out tire marks that went up to the knee of O'Connell's balloon-handling costume, she said.
"I twisted my body to see, and my leg was entirely stuck beneath the car, and I started yelling and my aunt was yelling, and I was yelling 'Get the car off my foot!' " O'Connell said. "It hurt at a level I've never experienced, and I've had two sons."
O'Connell, 39, a preschool teacher in Queens, had happily agreed to be a balloon handler this year to help her aunt, Cathy Zanella, achieve one of her lifelong goals: to march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Zanella, 48, who lives in Culpeper, Va., said she can't help feeling guilty.
"This was my bucket-list item and it wasn't hers, and I, of course, didn't want her to get hurt," Zanella said. Before the accident, Zanella said, "We were all pumped up, even though it was freezing cold. It was just exciting . . . when we were going by the people they were all screaming 'Buzz, Buzz!' "
She said the driver of the minicar seemed to accelerate too quickly, and it looked like he couldn't find the reverse gear to drive off O'Connell's leg.
"It seemed like forever because I couldn't get her out," Zanella said. "It wasn't like he just ran over her foot -- he had to back up in order for her to get out."
On her way home from the hospital Thursday, O'Connell said her foot is fractured and in a cast.
"It was a wonderful memory destroyed," she said. "It was supposed to be something we could all remember forever and now we're all going to remember it by this."