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With 10 days left until Chelise’s Daddy was to arrive in the country from his tour in Iraq, we were ready and counting down the days. On September 5, 2008, Chelise left with friends to go out. Full of energy and smiles, she yelled her usual “Bye, Ma!” and slammed the door behind her. I called her later to ask a question. I joked and laughed with her. She was having a great time… but within the hour she would be dead.
Driving down a rural road in Plain City, the Ford Escort she was in with her friends was T-boned by a 26-year-old male driving a full-size pickup. He was driving approximately 40 miles per hour and failed to yield at the intersection. Chelise took the full impact of the crash. Her friends were able to walk away, but they will bear the scars that no 16-year-old should have to. Later, we would ﬁnd out that the man was out on bail pending a felony DUI charge. While not drunk at the time, he had levels of a controlled substance in his system. We are currently awaiting charges.
Within 36 hours of her death, Chelise’s Daddy came home to a very different homecoming than we had meticulously planned—six sobbing children and a broken wife to meet him at the airport. Within three hours of stepping off the plane, we were selecting a casket for our beautiful angel. I can’t even imagine the trauma he must have felt. Leaving a war zone and coming home to this.
No parent plans to bury a child. It is unthinkable. In time, I know my family will ﬁnd happiness again. For now, every event is tainted because of her absence in our lives. I see her in sunﬂowers… wild, bright and bold. I never knew how deeply I could miss someone.
We all bear responsibility when we get behind the wheel. Not only for our safety, but for the safety of others. Be aware. The people in the other cars are someone’s children.