An Open Letter from Christopher
The following story is not pretty. It may even be disturbing to some, but it is real life and it is happening all too often all over the country. The story below may disturb you, and quite frankly, I hope that it disturbs you as much as it has disturbed me.
On May 3, 2005, a terrible tragedy happened in my home state of Michigan, just the next town over from where I grew up and still have a home. While it made headlines locally, unfortunately there is a huge lesson to be learned from this for everyone around the country, even the world.
At around 3:30pm, a woman by the name of Judith Weinstein had just picked up her two sons, Alexander,12 and Samuel, 9, from school and was taking them to an orthodontist appointment. Weinstein was waiting to pull into the doctor's parking lot when her four-door Honda Accord was rear ended as she sat in the left turn lane. Judith, Alexander and Samuel, were killed almost instantly.
Sadly, as it turns out, this tragedy could have totally been avoided. The person who hit this family was not just drunk, he was wasted. When they tested this guy at the hospital, his blood alcohol level was an unbelievable 0.43, more than 5 times the legal limit (0.08) in the state of Michigan. It was said in one of the newspapers that someone with a level that high is usually in a coma or dead from alcohol poisoning and they can't understand how he was able to still drive. Even more astonishing, when they tested his blood at the hospital 12 hours later, he was still drunk, with a level of 0.26, still 3 times the legal limit.
Police later checked his GMC
Denali's "black box", a device much like airplanes have (many new GM vehicles
have them now). A car's black box indicates things like the
vehicle's speed at the time of a crash and whether or not the brakes were
applied prior to impact, etc. As it turns out, the brakes were not applied
before he hit this family. His speed at the time of impact: 70 mph. "When I saw the pictures, the devastation of
the vehicle, I had to choke back tears," an emotional Oakland County
Prosecutor David Gorcyca said during a news conference. "There are no words
to describe it."
The man (whose name I will not type here because he has 2 teenage kids who I am sure are dealing with their own grief as to what their father has caused), was in fair condition with a broken neck. He was arraigned in his hospital bed at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. In addition to three counts of second-degree murder, he also faces three counts of driving while intoxicated. Investigators said in addition to the injuries, he is suffering tremors from alcohol withdrawal and is under round-the-clock police guard.
"There is no excuse for this, killing an entire family," said Farmington Hills Police Chief Bill Dwyer. "This is an entire community feeling pain and sorrow. This was a wonderful family, well-liked, well-respected. And he's wiped out what's left of the father. We've never had this many people die in a drunk-driving accident in this city. At 0.43, he's lucky to be alive. The mother and children never had a chance."
"I can't get the visual of this dead family out of my mind," said David Miles, a chiropractor who was the first to run to the accident scene to help the family. "It was gruesome."
As you might imagine, everyone from our area is outraged. To make matters even worse, it has been reported that this guy showed up to work that morning drunk and was sent home because he was intoxicated. His employers also had scheduled a meeting with him the week or so before to discuss his coming to work drunk at times in the past. He never showed up for the meeting.
But enough about him, let's talk about those whose lives he took. The Detroit Free Press quoted someone as saying that Gary Weinstein had married his "best friend". Mr. Weinstein was quoted after the accident as saying, "I've lost everything. What am I going to do?" Imagine waking up that morning with your wife by your side, your kids running around the house beginning their day, and then returning home that evening to an empty house. Your family gone. Forever.
Approx. 2,000 people attended the funeral. While many of us in the community don't even know the Weinstein family, we really don't have to know them to feel their pain. As John Donne wrote in "For Whom The Bell Tolls": "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." He then goes on to write, "Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
Everyone, the bell tolls for us. We have a responsibility, to each other, to not get behind the wheel drunk and try to drive. Period. An entire family is wiped out, physically and emotionally, as well as their friends and loved ones.
However, I truly believe that their lives, and their brief time here on earth, cannot have been lived in vain.
This tragedy has touched me very deeply for some reason. Again, I didn't even know these people, but the only thing that keeps going through my mind is "what a waste of precious life". I just feel that these people cannot have lived here on earth just to die this way. Their life had to have been meant to make an impact in someone else's life. All of us have the ability, and responsibility, to make a difference in each other's life. In a sense, we are our brother's keeper, and at times, we even need to live for them and through them when they can't.
This woman and her sons cannot have lived for nothing. Thus, my organization, Hang On to the Dream Foundation, is launching the "Think Before You Drink Campaign" in memory and in honor of this family. I have been in contact with Chief Dwyer about obtaining the wreckage of an automobile (not necessarily this one) that was involved in a drunk driving accident. From there, that wreckage will be placed on a flatbed trailer and driven and parked at various locations: high school sporting events, proms, homecoming dances, concerts, etc. There will also be volunteers on hand at each stop to speak with kids about the dangers of drinking and driving. "Think Before You Drink" lectures will also be held in middle and high schools around the country where some of those who have been affected by drinking and driving accidents will be able to speak directly to young people about the seriousness of this all too common tragedy.
This campaign will be an off-shoot of the Hang On to the Dream Foundation, and only funds of the Hang On to the Dream Foundation will be used to support this mission. No money will be accepted to directly support the "Think Before You Drink" campaign. To me, that seems like raising money off of someone else's tragedy and that's not what this is about. This is about saving lives. Period.
What we will accept, however, are the following: printing services to print out "Think Before You Drink" pamphlets to get the message out, people who are willing to volunteer at "Think Before You Drink" rallies, etc. More info on that is below.
I would also like to go on record as saying that I am a strong advocate on the installation of a breath-alizer device that should be installed in every person's vehicle who has been convicted of a drunk driving accident (if not in everyone's car who has ever been convicted of drunk driving, period). One of the stipulations on getting their license back should be that they get this device installed in their car at their expense. Better they should have to pay some money, so that others won't have to pay with their lives. I feel that if they can put DVD players, Play Stations, etc. in cars today, I am sure that they can install a device that would actually save lives, rather than install more distractions that will only take lives.
Finally, I encourage everyone to get acquainted with organizations like MADD, SADD and the like. Support them in every way possible! Also, if you know of someone who has a drinking problem, GET THEM HELP IMMEDIATELY! Below are some links that might help, and our new campaign has a web site of its own (www.thinkbeforeyoudrink.info) that will be up and running soon that will have tons of information as to where you can get help.
[Quotes from officials noted above are from Detroit Free Press and Detroit News news stories]
If you would like to volunteer
to be a part of the
"Think Before You Drink" Campaign,
please "click here".
If you, or someone you know,
has a drinking problem, PLEASE, get help!
If it's your parent or loved one who has a drinking problem,
talk to them, plead with them, do what you can,
but don't give up seeking help.
Below are just a few links to websites that may help:
HELPING PROBLEM DRINKERS
If someone you care about has a problem with alcohol:
Understand that alcoholism is a treatable disease.
Be familiar with the symptoms of alcoholism.
Learn how to bring up the subject of alcoholism.
Help him or her understand there might be a problem.
Provide information about resources and ways family
Visit these Web sites to learn more:
Source: Prevention Coalition of Southeast Michigan
The "Think Before You
Drink" campaign was
created in memory of
Judith Weinstein and her sons Andrew and Samuel
by the Hang On to the Dream Foundation.
[BACK TO HOME PAGE]