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Answering the door at 2 a.m. cannot be a good thing, I was thinking as I looked out the window to see the police standing on my porch. I replay this memory over and over in my mind. April 22, 2009 was the worst night of my life. Police officers told me that my son, Derek, who was on his way home from a basketball game at a neighborhood church building around 10 p.m., was killed along with his roommate Blake Strebel, by a drunk driver who was being pursued by police.
Derek was going to receive his L.D.S. mission call in a few days. He had graduated from Bonneville High School, received his Eagle Scout award, and had been working at Domino’s Pizza as an assistant manager to save money to attend college after his mission. He was a happy, loving, friendly young man who always was willing to help anyone in need. He was also a peacemaker in our home. We miss him terribly.
Derek had so many friends. I couldn’t believe the number of them who came to the funeral. There were more than 800 people, many standing in the back and on the sides of the church because there were no more seats available. So many people were affected by Derek’s death. So many people miss him horribly as our family still does and will forever.
I can never forget the complete sickness and anxiety that came over me when I knew I had to tell my children what had happened to their brother. I had to call my husband, who works nights, to come home from work, and my parents to come stay with me. I will never be able to get the memory of their reaction on the phone out of my head. It was so awful. I remember the pain in their voices when they understood what I was telling them. Telling my loved ones Derek had been killed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
We have been to so many court hearings, trials, cases, etc. that I can’t count them anymore. Each one brings up the horrifying memories all over again. The young man who was driving drunk and fleeing police didn’t have any idea the damage he would cause to so many people. He had many opportunities to stop, but ended up reaching speeds at over 70 miles-per-hour on a 35 mile-per-hour road while running a red light and hitting the car that killed Derek and Blake.
Some good things have come out of this tragedy. Derek’s sister Rachel wrote and presented an hour-long presentation about drunk and distracted driving, choices, and how all of this has affected her life to several health and criminal justice classes at the high school. The way each member of our family thinks and lives has now changed for the better because of the things we have learned through this experience.