Former First Lady LAURA BUSH goes public about the tragedy that changed her life – FOREVER!

In new book Spoken From the Heart, Bush reveals the shocking car crash that claimed the life of a high school pal when she was only 17.

Laura describes in vivid detail the years of torment, wracked by guilt after slamming into another car in 1963.

Laura and a girlfriend were racing to a drive-in theater when Laura, at the wheel of her father’s Chevy Impala, ran a stop sign on a small road and smashed into a car being driven by Mike Douglas, a popular student and athlete at her high school.

"In those awful seconds, the car door must have been flung open by the impact and my body rose in the air until gravity took over and I was pulled, hard and fast, back to earth," she writes in a copy of the book obtained by the NY Times.

 "The whole time, I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling ‘Please, God. Please, God. Please, God,’ over and over and over again."

The future first lady admits in the book that she and her friend were chatting when she ran the stop sign.

But she also cites other factors allegedly beyond her control – the pitch-black road, an unusually dangerous intersection, the small size of the stop sign, and the car the victim was driving.

"It was sporty and sleek, and it was also the car that Ralph Nader made famous in his book Unsafe at Any Speed," she states. "A few years later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration went so far as to investigate the Corvair’s handling, but it didn’t reach the same grim conclusions. I was driving my dad’s much larger and heavier Chevy Impala.

"But none of that would ever ease the night of November 6.

"Not for me, and never for the Douglases."

Admittedly, racked by guilt for years after the crash, Laura hadn’t attended the funeral nor had she reached out to the victim’s parents.

"I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years," she writes in the book.

"It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something . . .humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard.

"My begging . . . had made no difference.

"The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas’s sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain."