Friday, December 17, 2010
Counting my blessings this Christmas.
On Tuesday, Dec 7, around 4:30 pm our small town of about 12,000 people was shattered by the most tragic accident. 4 young lives were lost, and a 5th was fighting for his at Yale Hospital. Lost were the driver John Clapper 16, his girl friend Sativa Cornell 16, Dillon Clifford also 16, and Steven Szklarz who was only 15. All these kids were students at my alma mater high school. The manner in which they died was especially horrific, they died when they car they were riding in hit a tree head on at a high rate of speed. The 5th passenger Joel Gallup is in critical condition and looks forward to mulitple repairing surgeries, and is still in a medical induced coma. He does not yet know the fate of his 4 friends.
As a member of the community, I just felt sorry, remorse, compassion. No, I didn't know the kids. I knew of them, I knew that Dillon was on the football team. I knew John was the son of guy my husband knew well. As a mother, my heart is broken. Broken for the parents that have lost their beloved children so close to the holiday. Dillon was buried on his 17th birthday. He was the only child to his parents.
It was an accident. It was an accident caused by poor choices, but it was still an accident. John was driving, he didn't not have a license, he only had his permit. He was not legal to drive in the state of CT without a legal licensed adult in the car. There was not one present. Sativa was the only licensed driver in the car, however she only got her license in Oct. According to CT state law, she was not supposed to have anyone else in the car with her, except for her parents, or siblings. No other peer member should have been in the vehicle. At some point, she handed the keys over to John and gave him permission to drive the car. The car belonged to her mother.
Things like this really make you stop and think. Kids are kids, we know this, and we know that will push the envelope, even when we restrict them. Its part of being a teenager, its part of growing up. Remember the ridiculous stuff we used to do as teenagers? We may have looked back, now, 25 years later and say to ourselves, how did we survive? We cheated death constantly and won. Its hard to look at these kids and say to yourself, 'well, what did you think was gonna happen?' They don't get that second chance. They don't get to go to their parents and say "That was stupid. I won't do THAT again, I'm sorry".
As parents, we always want better for our kids than what we had. We know how teenagers operate, we should have seen this coming at some point. I took the opportunity to sit down with my own children, my 2 oldest girls are 9 and 10, and we had a discussion about it. They had seen the news, they have friends that knew these kids through their older siblings. They have teachers that taught these kids just a few short years ago, and were openly grieving. I sat my girls down and asked them if they had any questions, and if there was anything they wanted to discuss. Neither was really sure what to say, so I did the talking. I told them there is always a choice. There are good responsible choices, and there are bad ones. And the consequence of a bad choice can always be death. When I say things to them like "Don't ride your bike in the middle of the road", its not because I'm trying to be mean, or take away their fun, its because I love them and I want to keep them safe. I want to protect them so I can keep them forever. A mother should never have to bury her child. I reminded my girls that they would asking me to get their driver's license in a few short years, and I hope this is something that stays with them.
And so, this holiday season, please hold your children close and thank God for every blessing you have. Please have that talk with them, and feel free to share this story with them. There are 4 families tonight wishing they were scolding their child, or getting annoyed with their tantrums, probably because they took the keys away. They also wish they were holding them tight and thanking God for their blessings. And please remind your children they are not invincible. These things can and will happen to new and inexperienced drivers. Remember, a car is not a toy. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Do what you have to do to keep your kids safe.
I dedicate this blog to the memory of John Clapper, Sativa Cornell, Dillon Clifford, and Steven Szklarz. I'm praying that Joel Gallup continues to recover and eventually goes on to live a fulfilling life.
Once a Wolverine, Always a Wolverine. Rest in Peace Guys, your memory will live forever.