A friend and I are working on something we hope will be helpful to families like ours. It’s in the planning phase but pretty far along. Keeping our fingers crossed.
Sometimes I DO encounter the darndest things when I do impact panels. Yesterday morning after we were done a nice lady walked up and told me that she had seen Carol and I at a bar she worked at when we were out with the PC DUI Task Force doing home safe bar visits. This bar had a less than stellar record for coding DUIs. She said that I had given her my card while she was working security. ANYway, she said that they had met with Liquor Control at LEAST once a month and they trained the CRAP out of their wait staff and their patrons STILL managed to get on their lips drunk. They had Uber on speed dial, they would even PAY for the ride sometimes. But she said they couldn’t legally take their keys away. Then she said that the owner sold the place because they were SO uncomfortable serving alcohol and that they felt they were living on borrowed time. This bar also had an outdoor hotdog stand and served food up until pretty much closing time. I always felt that they were doing their best. Hospitality is a WAY hard business to do right. You HAVE to sell alcohol to make money but if you serve TOO much someone is going to get hurt or killed.
THEN I was telling her about ANOTHER bar near there that didn’t seem to care WHAT we, the cops OR Liquor Board said they made NO effort. Then ANOTHER young lady said “You mean *****” . Yes and I told her what a dick the owner and his son were. She said YEAH. That’s where she had been drinking the night she got HER DUI. She said that the son overpours to young women in hopes of “getting in their pants”. She said he was CONSTANTLY putting the make on all the women who go there. JAYSUS. Thought so.
I am NOT saying that ALL bars are bad and don’t care about their patrons. Quite the opposite actually. Carol and I, in the couple years we were VERY active, were seeing a VERY positive trend among the customers. There would be whole tables of young people having a whoop up and one person sitting with a glass of ice water as a designated driver. More and more people are using a cab or UBER type ride services to get TO the bars and then taking them home safely.So there IS a light at the end of this long dark tunnel. And it seems to be getting brighter all the time.
We went to Everett today, we try to get up there at least once or twice a year. We always go to the DUI Victim memorial wall at McCollum park. Carol usually brings a flower I always lay down some tobacco and leave a pepperoni stick. Sheena LOVED pepperoni sticks. We then went to a Safeway where Carol got some pretty spring flowers and we visited Sheena and Tony’s “Please don’t drink and drive” sign where they were both killed on Broadway under the 41st street overpass. THAT is hard. Seeing where this happened makes us sad and angry. Again.
We then were lucky enough to meet with the two most special people who were SO supportive throughout the Criminal justice part of this whole mess. The traffic Sargent and the Traffic investigative Detective of the Everett Police Department. These two gentlemen were SO good about keeping us in the loop during the investigation. They were also VERY supportive of us during court hearings. We would ask what to expect and they told us. They were right every time. When I called and mentioned that the victim advocate from the prosecutor’s office was not only NOT helpful but just ignored our calls and wouldn’t show up at court hearings, we weren’t even shown where the damn courtrooms were. When we went up to the hearing where the offender changed her plea from not guilty to guilty, they met us at the door and escorted us to the courtroom. They were also joined by eight uniformed police officers and two detectives. Quite an entourage. As we walked down the halls people would whisper “JEESUS. I wonder what THEY did”. They are very impressed and admirable of our actions in the state legislature, like helping to triple the sentencing guidelines for vehicular homicide. We are just as impressed of their professionalism and sensitivity in their dealings with us. We would have NEVER made it through all this without them.
Since this has happened to us we have met and worked with a LOT of AMAZING people. We have become friends with REALLY smart people in state agencies who LIVE this stuff, for whom traffic safety and prevention of deaths and injuries on our hiways is a mission. We have been places and been with high placed elected officials and high ranking military officers we never dreamed of ever being with in the same room. Goodness knows we have been in front of TV cameras and radio appearances trying EVERYTHING we can to make a difference and move Sheena’s spirit forward.
But at the end of the day we know why all this is happening. As inspiring as all the people we work with are, the pain we feel over Sheena’s loss is always present. We think of her every day. After a trip like today we ARE sad AND angry. This has left a huge hole in our hearts. And we miss her deeply in our guts. It doesn’t get easier. Never will.
I was driving Sheena’s little sister Amy to her volunteer job at the Pierce County Humane Society when out of the blue she asked me, “Are you guys going to be around for a while?” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant at first. Then she brought up that Sheena had always promised to watch out for her after we died. Now she’s gone and now Amy doesn’t know who is going to look after when we die. She doesn’t know this, but it’s ONE of many things that cause my eyes to snap open in the middle of the night.
I wasn’t sure exactly how to answer. The EASY way would have been to just say that we will ALWAYS be there for her and to not worry. She has disabilities but she’s NOT stupid. So I just told her that we had no control of when we pass on. We HOPE to be here for a long time. She added “You ARE getting up there ya know”………. Hard to argue with that.Then I told her that a LOT of people love her in at LEAST twenty states and at LEAST four countries. I told her that she doesn’t have ONE big sister anymore,she has dozens. She seemed to get it. I didn’t lie to her, I couldn’t. We are people of modest means and we do NOT have a million dollar trust fund set up for her. I DO worry.
Of COURSE the reason we are even HAVING this discussion is because of a damn drunk driver. SHE will get out of prison and move on. We won’t. SHE will have grandchildren someday, WE won’t. A few beers, a couple glasses of wine, a couple drinks a couple hits from a bong. Sounds innocent enough. It is NOT. Amy damn near broke my heart today. Is this “normal”? It is now for US at least. Although I think about stuff like this all the time now, this caught me off guard. Thanks Camille.
It’s been five years since we lost Sheena to a drunk driver. Five years may seem like a long time. It’s not. We are just as sad, just as shocked, just as devastated. We continue to struggle as we do our best to move forward. We will also continue to do all we can to stop impaired people from killing our families. Please help any way you can.
The Seahawks pulled this off. I pray YOU have a plan to get home safe. GO HAWKS!!!!
Today Carol and I went on a trip to Everett to meet with, thank and hug the firefighter who took such special care of Sheena as she passed. We learned of him and his story last spring and we finally got together. We met with him and four others who responded to the wreck that killed her and Tony. We met at the fire station. There were at least six to eight people in the room as we spent an hour talking about that night from our perspective and of course from their perspective. Among the professionals in the room was a Battalion Chief.
When we first sat at the table Scott started tearing up. I handed him a Kleenex. This reaction told us a LOT about his character. Scott is the one who took charge of Sheena. He felt her pulse, it was weak and she wasn’t breathing very well. He bagged her, they started an IV. He stayed with her and comforted her as they cut and pried her from the wreckage. Tony died instantly. It took about ten minutes to get Sheena out of the car. They wanted to get her to Harborview. She coded on the way so she went to Providence in Everett. You know how that part of the story ends.
We learned a LOT today. Sheena was not conscious or terrified, she was not calling out for us and she was NOT alone. This caring professional was NOT going to give up on her, he was going to assure her that people were doing their best to get her out and calmly stayed with her. He never left her when she finally was extracted from her car he held her in his arms and got her into the ambulance. He was with her when she coded he held her hand as she passed. He told us that he did what he KNEW we would have done had we been there. He did what he would want another firefighter to do if HIS daughter were in a similar circumstance. (God forbid)
We also learned that those seemingly faceless professionals who respond to these horrid wrecks DO care. They care a LOT. To this day, almost three years after THIS wreck, the fact that a big, burly man like Scott still tears up when he saw us makes clear that there is still beauty and honor in this world. That there ARE angels in the world and they don’t always LOOK like angels, sometimes they look like big, burly men.
Our visit with these compassionate professionals today did NOT make our pain go away. BUT it DID make this whole awful situation just a little easier to bear. Thank you and God Speed Station One EFD.