Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Please don't drink and drive

I am grieving today. I am grieving for four teenagers I didn't even know. Four kids. One 19-year-old, one 15-year-old, and two 16-year-olds. Devon, Erica, Jordan, and Stephanie. All students at Lake Shore High School in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Out together on Monday night, heading to Pizza Hut to get a pizza. Stopped at a red light. And in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Little did these four kids know that there was a 47-year-old woman--her blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit--at the wheel of a full-size van, speeding down Gratiot Avenue, coming up behind them. Moments later, she plowed into the back of the car these unsuspecting kids were riding in. Now all four kids are dead and the woman who killed them is facing four counts of murder.

When I watched the story on the news last night, I cried. I cried because I can't imagine the grief the families of these four kids are going through. One of the moms said she was worried because her son said he was going to get a pizza and she hadn't heard from him in awhile. So she called the Pizza Hut and the worker there said, "Which way on Gratiot were they going, because there was a really bad accident." I can't imagine being on the receiving end of that conversation.

I also cried because I can't imagine the grief the family of the driver who snuffed out these four young lives is going through either. You see, I grew up in an alcoholic home. My father was an alcoholic who had more DUIs than I could even count. On more than one occasion, he hit parked cars and all I can remember is thanking God that the cars were parked and empty. As a kid, riding in the car with my dad while he was intoxicated was a regular occurrence. I will never forget how scared I was, wondering if I was going to make it home alive, but too terrified to speak up about it. The last time my dad was arrested for driving drunk was about 20 years ago. He called me to bail him out of jail. I did it, reluctantly, but I remember it feeling like a slap in the face after all the years I had suffered as the child of an alcoholic father, and all the times I had confronted my dad about his problem.

I hope the families of these four kids, and the community in general, don't take their anger out on the family of the driver whose incredibly stupid decision led to this tragedy. I can tell you first-hand that this event is as big a nightmare for the driver's family as it is for the teenagers' families. I know what it's like to be the child of an alcoholic who drives drunk. Every day you pray to God that they will make it home safely without hurting anyone. I always worried more about innocent strangers than I did about my dad. I figured if my dad drove drunk and hurt or killed himself, then that's him suffering the consequences for his actions. But if my dad drove drunk and hurt or killed someone else...well, that would be something altogether different.

Take it from me: this horrible tragedy is a nightmare come true for the family of the driver of that van. This is what they've feared might happen for a long time. I know. I've been there. And despite what people may think, if you have a loved one who is an alcoholic or addict, you cannot "fix" them, no matter how hard you try or how hard you want to. The "Three C's" of Al-Anon and Nar-Anon tell it like it is: "We didn't cause it, we can't cure it, and we can't control it."

My hearts go out to everyone who is affected by this tragedy. There is one lesson to be learned from all of this, and it's so simple that it's almost ridiculous: DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE. If you've been drinking, take a cab, or the bus, or the subway. Or walk. Or call a friend or relative. Or, if all else fails, just sleep in your car until you sober up. But please don't drink and drive.

If you want to read more about this terrible accident, you can do so in this story from The Detroit News.

And the victims of this crash are remembered in this article from The Detroit News.

If by chance you would like to donate to a fund set up for the families of the four victims, here is how you can do so.

Lake Shore school district has set up a fund for anyone wishing to donate to the families. Checks may be made payable to:

Lake Shore Public Schools Memorial Fund
28850 Harper Ave.
St. Clair Shores, MI 48081
Attention: Business Office

To my knowledge, there is no way to make a donation electronically, at least at this point. I've e-mailed the school district to see if there is something like that in the works and will post that info if it becomes available. I am, however, willing to collect money electronically via PayPal if anyone wants to donate that way. I will take your money and add it to the check that I send to the fund. Leave a comment with your e-mail address if you are interested in doing that and I will contact you.

If nothing else, please say a prayer to your higher power tonight for everyone affected by this event. A lot of lives will never, ever be the same.


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