Recently, an alleged drunk driver smashed into a trailer park near Sacramento, at an estimated 85 miles per hour, barreling right into one of the trailers. He killed a mother, father and young son and critically injured their young daughter. As of this writing, she remains in critical condition. He was apparently in this country illegally, but that’s a whole ‘nother bottle of whiskey.
The alleged drunk was released on $30,000 bail. That amount is an outrage! If convicted, it is unknown what sort of penalty he will receive. Drunk driving and vehicular homicide sentences vary a great deal in most states.
I was widowed by a drunk driver when I was in college. She was 7 months pregnant at the time. They tried their best to save the child, but his injuries (the fetus was male) were too extensive. He died with his mother, Carol. Since then, I have often wondered about the lives of all the drunk driving victims I hear about in the news.
In my case, I was headed to graduate school to finish my degrees in music. Carol and I had even picked out our apartment, which was right on the water on the campus of the University. They were impressed by my music and opinion writing and were going to even pay me to be an instructor until I got my degree. It was perfect for a young student with a wife who was almost seven months pregnant.
We decided to start having children right away and she became pregnant about a month after we were married. The original plan was for me to drop out of school and work full-time until the child was 2 or 3 years old, then Carol would go back to work while I worked part-time to finish my degree. This offer from a University was perfect. I would finish my degree and become a professor at the University. I’m pretty sure the drunk that killed her didn’t know anything about this.
Also certain he didn’t know that Carol had a PhD in Music Education and a Performer’s Certificate from the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. It’s the performance equivalent of a PhD. She had a beautiful coloratura soprano voice. In fact, she was headed back to the Mozarteum for additional studies when I met her. I wrote a song for her and it convinced her to stay. We married 3 months after we met. The drunk driver didn’t know any of that.
I don’t think he knew that, after she was killed, I dropped out of school and almost became homeless until I got my life back on track. I never finished school. No way I could live in an apartment we had picked out because the second bedroom would make a perfect nursery for David, if it was a boy, or Carol if we had a girl.
The man received no jail time or even a fine. As lame as drunk driving laws are today, they were much more lenient back then. I’m fairly certain he and his fellow drunk never suspected that I would give up a good chunk of my life to track them down and see to it that justice was done. That would explain all their surprised looks when I caught up with them.
Besides the opportunity to vent, I want this blog to convey the thought that drunk driving is attempted murder. Those laws and penalties are still on the books. Drunk driving that results in death is murder in the first degree. Again, the law and penalty are a matter of record.
I continue to write to local and national politicians urging them to change the laws to make attempted murder and murder one apply to drunk driving. Obviously, so far, it’s made no difference, but I keep writing.
This in no way is meant to inspire anyone with a similar story to seek their own justice or revenge. Like myself, everyone has to make up their own minds on how to deal with a loss at the hands of a drunk.
I don’t think the drunk driver ever took the time to find out just how special Carol was. From a very poor family, she was able to earn a PhD and Performer’s Certificate. She was a highly respected professional and was greatly admired in the academic music world.
I imagine he didn’t know how much we loved each other. She saw things in me that no one else did. She believed in me as a human being and a composer. Our dream was for me to write a piece that would be performed by a major classical orchestra. I was halfway through that when she was killed. Never finished it. However, although it took me 40 years, I wrote a song about her. She was singing at a little country church every Sunday when I met her. The place was packed for the service and even the pastor knew most folks were coming to hear her. I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve written.
I’m also in the process of recording the song I wrote for her when we met. It’s called, “You’re Still My Home.” I’ll post the link here when it’s finished. As you might imagine, it’s not the easiest song for me to work on.
While I was able to remind the drunk about who Carol was when I confronted him, I didn’t have time for her whole story. He never knew she loved the beach and we spent an incredible day in Ocean City just a few days before he killed her and my unborn son. Nor did he know I was able to treat her to a wonderful dinner at the then world famous Orsatti’s Restaurant in Atlantic City. We even dined at the table overlooking Hap Farley’s full wall photo. He was a politician of some note in the area. He even called us over to his table and sent us home with desert and a great bottle of wine. He thought we were a good-looking couple. She was a knockout, I made sure her killer knew that.
Her killer didn’t know that my life turned out okay. Far different than the professor who was going to be a great father to his son and love his wife forever. No, he never knew anything about us.
If you have a similar situation, you have my prayers. I will tell you the pain never goes away. But some days, you can go an hour or two without thinking about your loss. You will find happiness if you allow yourself to do it. I wish you health and happiness! May God bless you and yours.
© 2019 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.