2012-06-14 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Lives Wasted For Lack Of Responsible Thought
By Charles Rogers

A recent story out of Brunswick, Ohio, a small township outside of Cleveland, told of four students who were killed in an auto accident just a few days before they were to graduate from high school. Police and other officials said they did not believe there were drugs or alcohol involved in the crash — just a matter of a car that went out of control because of alleged excessive speed.

One youth survived, but was severely injured. The police report indicated the car in which the group was riding went airborne shortly after midnight as it went over a railroad crossing, flipping on its roof, then striking a tree. One of the teenagers was ejected from the vehicle and the others were apparently trapped inside. Witnesses to the crash were on the scene immediately and tried to help as they called for emergency assistance.

Although police blamed excessive speed, they said that even a car going 45 miles per hour could go airborne at the crossing and that accidents at that location were “a common occurrence.”

We don’t, and probably never will, know what actually caused that crash. It could have been immaturity, for all we know, or just recklessness or, well, just a bunch of kids happy that they were about to graduate and who might have been carelessly fooling around in the car. No matter. It serves as a reminder that, especially at this time in their lives, our kids must not let themselves get to the point of forgetting their responsibilities. These kids were not drinking or smoking pot, apparently, but they weren’t paying attention. It could have been a matter of the driver losing his concentration for just a second, plus speed — and then all is lost.

I am reminded of a personal incident that happened when I graduated from high school where death also resulted.

We were at a party during graduation week and, yes, there was a lot of drinking going on, mostly beer, but some of the hard stuff too, as I remember. The private house where the party was held was just crammed full of camaraderie. The host’s parents were upstairs, but they figured they’d best keep away and let their son and his friends carry on to our hearts’ content. And carry on we did! Everybody loved everybody else. What was not to love? We were graduating! “No more teachers, no more books, etc...!”

The party went on into the wee hours, with dancing and drinking and singing and, yes, more carrying on until we were all hoarse, sleepy, and bleary-eyed.

When four of my friends left the house to go home, I remember noticing that the person who was driving was having trouble walking a straight line. He even had trouble finding his own car. I told one of his more sober buddies he should take the wheel, but the driver would have none of it and, although I started to pull him away, he climbed into the front seat and started his car, headed down the driveway and joined a nearby highway at about 35 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, the guy who was driving the car in which I was riding (he hadn’t been drinking), agreed with me that it might be wise to follow that first car, if for no other reason than to be a “surveillance” vehicle to see that they got home safely.

When we turned onto the highway, we could barely see the rear lights of the first car as it went up the next hill. He must have been doing 80! And he was weaving side to side as his lights went out of sight.

As we came up over the hill, the first thing that came into sight was the red glow of the fire against the black sky where that first car had struck a tree. We pulled up behind the wreck to see the driver engulfed in flames and pinned in his seat. He looked in our direction just as the vehicle exploded in front of our eyes.

All four occupants were killed.

The story isn’t told for shock value or sensationalism. It only makes the same point that the recent crash in that town outside of Cleveland relays to us as a warning at this time of proms and graduations and uncaring happiness. Whether it’s drinking or texting or tomfoolery, we must be aware of our responsibilities and, perhaps because of incidents mentioned in the media, a life or two or three — or maybe four — might not be wasted.

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