Posted by: canaryinacoalmine | June 16, 2005

Drunk Driving

We came around a blind curve in rural Virginia and were hit head on. Glass shattered everywhere. I was jolted awake and hugged my teddy bear.

Easter weekend, I was but 6 years old and remember it like yesterday. My brothers were visiting relatives. My older sister, Mom, Dad and I were on our way to see the Grandparents. I was asleep in the back seat with my head resting against the back of the driver seat, my father was driving. Mom leaned against the passenger door paging through Good Housekeeping only pausing to take in the lush scenery. I remember Sissy kicking me from time to time, she was mad I was sleeping. For the love of gawd, how dare I sleep when she can’t! You must wake up and play the license plate game with me!


GLASS was Everywhere. This was before airbags, before we knew the importance of seatbelts. Before we knew the importance of safety, 1983, before Michael Jackson was a freak and when Bruce Springsteen had us singing Born in the USA. The whole event is a vivid blur; I am shaking even now as I write this and fighting back the tears and anger.

He hit us head on crushing our car like a crumpled up piece of paper. When I came to, flashes of red and blue swirled around. Sissy had stopped hitting me, stopped fighting me. I leaned over to see if she was awake. Her eyes popped open; we sat there in dead silence blocking out everything while staring into one another’s eyes. The silent conversation of I’m okay – you okay?

The fire department was the first on the scene, the first to our rescue. Franticly rushing to get us all out of the car safely they pryed Mom and Dad out and gingerly placed them on stretchers. Performing the basic diagnostics until the ambulance arrived. They were hanging on by the hair of their chinny chin chin. My Mother couldn’t move her arm, her neck screamed at her while her vertebrae would not stop rattling. Her eyes were droopy, I heard her call, “K – K – the girls! My Girls are they okay? I won’t leave with out my GIRLS!”

Dad was dizzy; his head swelled as his body went into shock, he murmured, “My kids” and faded out. The ambulance doors slammed. I still remember hearing the slam of metal against metal as they slammed shut. A white light joined the red and blue ambulance light as the siren flicked on … they drove away.

Sissy and I were fine. Shaken and stirred. The paramedics instructed us to climb into the cop car as we watched our parents drive away. I was still clutching my teddy bear. Like a big sister does, she was clutching me.

In the distance, I remember seeing the other driver climb out of his car. He was fine. FINE! He helped himself out of his own car. While our Easter was altered by a drunk driver. The cops dug out a half empty bottle of vodka and six empty cans of beer from the floor board of his car, after all it was a DRY COUNTY

There is a power of strangers that happens during times of strife, a power to help others when you know you can. The reach, the touch, human contact, everyday angels. The one’s that are touched rarely forget the kindness while the one’s doing the touching sometimes forget.

The ambulance drivers found our Easter candy and brought it to the hospital along with our Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck bags. Mom and Dad were discharged from the hospital that night. In retrospect they probably should have stayed for observation. We stayed at the local Holiday Inn, got up for breakfast, and Easter Candy on Easter Sunday. While at breakfast the waitress inquired about the incident and asked my parents what they wanted to do that day. Being the good Catholics my parents are, “All we want to do is go to church”
Without hesitation, the waitress held out her hand and said, “Here, take my car.”

After church the Priest came up to us for a personal blessing and inquired about my parents’ bandages and our plans for Easter Sunday. My father inquired about renting a car to get to the airport. The priest walked away solo and came back with a parishioner who drove us to the airport.

The kindness of strangers and hug of selflessness.

10 years later while driving through that same town on a business trip, my father stopped at the fire station. Closing his car door and hearing the slam of metal against metal, he recognized a face. A father and son fire fighter walking around the perimeter of the station. He introduced himself retelling the story. The fireman barely remembered the incident but knew the drunk driver, owner of the town’s grandson (he’s a 3rd as XXXXX the 3rd), was never charged. NEVER.
My father, of manly stature, did the only thing he could and made a hefty donation to the fire department.

I take cabs when I go out at night even though we drive everywhere in Houston. It’s not worth it.
Occasionally, the dumb factor enters in and I will drive to meet someone for a drink, you okay to drive home? No, I can park my car and cab it.


  1. i’m sorry to hear you and your family went through that, but thank God you all survived.
    i was SO DUMB in college… i drove drunk countless times. i can’t even believe i was so lucky to have done that and never hurt myself or someone else.
    bryan and i now cab it, almost always. we didn’t used to, thinking we needed to save the couple of bucks. but money is NOTHING compared to someone’s life.
    and isn’t it so crazy how the drunk drivers usually walk away unhurt by these tragic accidents?
    thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow. You guys are so lucky that you all came out of that alive. Thanks for sharing that story.

  3. I share it to make people aware

  4. i was riveted reading this. harrowing i’m sure, and beautifully told.

  5. In Miami, everyone drives drunk. It’s a guarantee that the causeways leading to and from the beach on any Thurdsday, Friday, or Saturday night will be packed with drunks. In Naples, it is usually the same deal – they start at one end of town, and then all drive to the other for the other bars. What’s a 30 mile round-trip drunken hike? Scary.

    I’m glad you all made it out safe.

    They get hurt in the accidents less often because their bodies are more relaxed. Like a child sleeping in the backseat.

  6. We had a family trip accident near a small town in Tennesse years ago and I was sleeping in the back seat. Everybody came out okay. But scary!

  7. Sarah – I am glad to hear there are other drunk smart people out there.

    J- You make Naples and Boca sound so dangerously exotic

  8. When I think of those few times in my late teens when I drove home with my hand over one eye, so that I wouldn’t see double, I am full of shame. Thank G-d that nothing ever happened. I am older now, and wiser. Your story makes me glad of that.


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