TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather.
Saturday, Nov 22, 2014
Letter of the Day

‘More than one life was lost that tragic day’

Published:

During the holiday season most families are preparing for happy and exciting times with families and fun festivities. We also remember our loved ones who are no longer with us and reflect on the events of our youth. I’d like to share an event that changed my life and became a prevalent focus for me during the holiday seasons.

It was the summer I turned 13. It is still engraved in my mind like it were yesterday. It was the first day of my life I saw my father cry. It was the day my brother, who at 16, was hit and killed by a drunk driver. It changed our lives forever.

My brother Jim was an A student, a kind and outstanding young man. He was healthy, happy and had a bright future ahead of him. He was the eldest son of eight children and the apple of my dad’s eye. He was killed brutally when a drunk driver swerved off the road as he and his friend walked back to the camp they volunteered at for the summer.

Instantly, our lives were changed forever. None of us would ever be the same. I watched my youth disappear overnight as my mother lost her faith and turned to drinking to console herself. Dad became a workaholic as he tried to cope in his own way. We kids took care of ourselves. The people I leaned on were drowning in their own sorrow. I grew up very quickly and sadly as I watched his sudden and horrific death destroy my family.

More than one life was lost that tragic day. Families bled for a lifetime. I can’t imagine how the young man who killed my brother lived with himself, and how it affected his family, knowing the deed he had done.

Never mind the legal damage, the loss of a driver’s license, attorneys’ fees, court costs, jail time, car damage, etc. If you’re lucky, that could be the extent of it. But it could easily be far worse. Remember, drunk driving kills. It maims. It changes more lives than just the victims’. It’s just not worth the gamble.

The statistics on drunk driving are overwhelming. A good reference is MADD.org. Did you know that approximately a third of all driving-related fatalities are alcohol-related? According to MADD.org/statistics, in 2011, 226 children were killed in drunk-driving crashes. Of those, 122 (54 percent) were riding with the drunk driver! (NHTSA data query, 2013).

If you don’t know, a standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. They all contain about the same amount of alcohol. The average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of about one drink per hour.

Abstinence is best. But if you must, think before you drink. Plan ahead. Call a friend. Call a cab. Sleep it off. Don’t let friends drive drunk. We’ve all heard it before, but do we really listen? Don’t take any chances. It’s just not worth it. The next statistic may be you or your loved one. Have a blessed and safe holiday season.

Susan Scharf

Valrico

Subscribe to The Tampa Tribune

Comments