A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my struggles with blogging, and I mentioned that I started this blog as a way to update friends and family on my brother’s recovery after a serious car accident. It’s evolved since its conception, but that event, the accident, triggered something in me to make me want to write and record everything that was happening. I knew that it would serve as a reminder to us of what those weeks were like, but I also wanted to give others a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be so close to a tragedy.
That accident happened a year ago, but the effects of it are still so present in our lives, and probably will be forever. While my brother was a lucky survivor, other families have grieved for their loved ones, the four boys who died that day. The survivors have the cloud of the accident over them always. I don’t think a day has passed where I haven’t thought about it in some way.
My brother’s best friend, Joe C., was driving the truck. He lives every day with the guilt of causing the death of four kids, and I hope I never know what that feels like. He survived the crash, but his life as he knew it ended that day last August.
I recently traveled to Iowa for a trial that never happened. The day before it was set to begin, Joe C. plead guilty to four counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving. That is what they charge you with when you unintentionally cause the death of another person while operating your vehicle in a reckless manner. He was going ten miles over the speed limit and ran a stop sign. I can’t help but think of the times when I’ve done the same thing with a different outcome.
For my brother’s injuries, he plead guilty to one count of serious injury by reckless driving. Iowa law defines “serious injury” as bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes permanent disfigurement or extended loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ. What the law can’t define is the pain of thinking you might have caused the death of your best friend.
His guilty plea carried a sentence of ten years in prison which he started serving last Thursday.
He’s 25 years old.
One of the really difficult parts of this ordeal has been reading about the accident on the news sites. Every time there is a new development in the case, I get to read the facts as interpreted by the media. Shortly after those stories are posted, I can go to Facebook and sift through the hundreds of comments from strangers who have very strong opinions about something they saw on television, but to me, and others directly involved, is real life.
I’ve seen comments from people who think Joe C. should kill himself.
I’ve seen comments where people say my brother should go to hell or to prison just for being in the truck that day.
I’ve also seen the commentators who stand up for Joe, and then some who take it too far and blame the parents of the boys for letting them drive underage.
When did it become okay to use a computer to hurt people? There is so much hurt here already, so much pain. Where is the compassion and kindness for people?
When I watch the news now, I watch with the understanding that they are telling their version of the truth. When I see people going along with a group in condemning someone based on those same news stories, I hurt for them. This is such a sad trend happening where people have so much information coming in, but it’s all so shallow and high level. We get our news stories in 140 characters or less, then form concrete opinions based on that. What a different place the world would be if we allowed time for our opinions and beliefs to incubate and grow, fed over time by information and truth and understanding.
My favorite comments are the ones that conveyed the following ideas:
Please remember that these are real people. The families of those involved ARE reading what you’re saying. They are already hurting and are hurt more by hateful comments.
Only say what you would be willing to say if you were face-to-face. Find a place in your heart for empathy.
Be kind. Above all else, be kind.
Photo by Didier Baertschiger