LINDA ROBERTS

by LINDA
(GREENVILLE, TEXAS, USA)

ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON ON OCTOBER 22, 1995 MY MOTHER AND HER SISTER WERE HIT BY A DRUNK DRIVER. HE WAS DRIVING AT SUCH A HIGH RATE OF SPEED THAT HIS CAR DROVE OVER MY MOTHER'S CAR, KNOCKING HER SEAT OUT OF PLACE. WITH THE IMPACT SHE WAS BOUNCED BACK AND FORTH IN THE DRIVER'S AREA AND DIED AT THE SCENE, ALTHOUGH CPR WAS STARTED AND PRONOUNCED AT THE HOSPITAL A SHORT TIME AFTER ARRIVAL. MY AUNT WAS BADLY INJURED WITH MULTIPLE BROKEN RIBS AND BRUISED BEYOND BELIEF. SHE SURVIVED. SHE HELD MY MOTHER'S HAND IN THE CAR, ALL THE WHILE TALKING TO HER, TELLING HER TO HOLD ON, HELP IS COMING. THE DRUNK DRIVER'S CAR LANDED UPSIDE DOWN NEXT TO THE RAILROAD TRACKS, HIS INJURIES BEING MINOR CUTS AND BRUISES, HE NEEDED ONLY STITCHES.
AT THE FUNERAL HOME, THE FIRST TIME I SAW HER, I WAS AFRAID OF WHAT I WOULD SEE. I ASKED THE FUNERAL HOME DIRECTOR HOW SHE LOOKED, DOES SHE LOOK LIKE SHE'S BEEN IN A WRECK? I COULD BARELY GET THE WORDS OUT. THE ONLY THING THAT COULD BE SEEN WAS A BUMP ON HER HEAD, THAT WAS ALL. I JUST STOOD THERE, LOOKING AT THE WOMAN WHO HAD LOST HER HUSBAND AT A YOUNG AGE, FINISHED RAISING THREE CHILDREN ALONE, MADE SURE WE ALL GOT THROUGH SCHOOL AND THEN ON THE COLLEGE, AS DADDY WOULD HAVE WANTED. THE ONLY PARENT WE HAD LEFT. AND SHE WAS GONE IN A HEARTBEAT. BY LAW AN AUTOPSY WAS DONE. SHE HAD BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH, WHY THAT? TO MAKE A STRONGER CASE IN COURT, I WAS TOLD.
EVERY YEAR, FROM OCTOBER 22 TO OCTOBER 26, THE DAY WE BURIED HER NEXT TO DADDY, I RELIVE THE WHOLE THING. I SANK INTO DEPRESSION AT ONE POINT THAT I DIDN'T THINK I WOULD EVER GET OUT OF. I BECAME INVOLVED WITH MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING. I VOLUNTEERED, I SPOKE AT VICTIM IMPACT PANELS IN FRONT OF DRUNK DRIVERS, I WENT INTO SCHOOLS TO SPEAK TO AT RISK KIDS, ANYTHING SO MORE ATTENTION WOULD BE PAID TO THIS PROBLEM. I MET PEOPLE WHO HAD LOST THEIR CHILDREN AND I ADMIRED THEIR COURAGE AND STRENGTH, GAINING A LITTLE MYSELF. I MET SURVIVORS OF CRASHES WHO WERE INJURED SO BADLY IT WAS A MIRACLE THEY SURVIVED AT ALL, AND BECAUSE THEY DID THEIR LIVES WERE CHANGED FOREVER. I ADMIRED THEIR STRENGTH AND COURAGE AS WELL. AND WITH THE HELP OF FAMILY MEMBERS MY ANGER, FURY AND HATE SLOWLY WENT AWAY. THE HOLE IN MY HEART IS STILL THERE. I MISS TALKING TO HER, HEARING HER VOICE. MY AUNT TOLD ME WE WOULD ALWAYS HAVE A HOME TO COME TO AT HER HOUSE, AND WE CAME TO VISIT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE IN THE FOLLOWING YEARS.

IN THE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED THE CRASH, I LEARNED QUITE A BIT ABOUT THE DRUNK DRIVER. WHAT I LEARNED MADE ME SICK TO MY STOMACH. HOW COULD ANYONE GET AWAY WITH DRIVING DRUNK NINE TIMES BEFORE? HOW COULD HE NOT HAVE LEARNED HIS LESSON LONG BEFORE KILLING MY MOTHER? HOW COULD HE NOW, AFTER WHAT HE HAD DONE THIS TIME, LOOK AT HIMSELF IN THE MIRROR, AND LIVE WITH HIMSELF? THANKS TO OUR WONDERFUL LEGAL SYSTEM HE GOT OFF ON A TECHNICALITY, WITH TIME SERVED OF ONLY A FEW MONTHS IN JAIL. SO MUCH FOR A STRONG COURT CASE. MY AUNT TOLD ME THAT AT THE HEARING TO DECIDE IF THERE WAS ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO TAKE HIM TO TRIAL, HE LOOKED CLEAN CUT, DRESSED IN A SUIT, COURT APPOINTED LAWYER, AND DIDN'T SAY A WORD. DIDN'T LOOK HER WAY, NO APOLOGY, NO LOOK OF REMORSE, NOTHING. KEPT HIS HEAD DOWN. HE WAS A MAN WHO HAD NO JOB, NO MONEY, NO DRIVER'S LICENSE. SEVERAL YEARS LATER, BECAUSE THERE WAS NO TRIAL, THERE IS NO RECORD OF THE OFFENSE ON HIS RECORD, AS IF IT NEVER HAPPENED, AS IF MY MOTHER AND AUNT NEVER EXISTED. SO HE GOT OFF AGAIN. IT IS MY SINCERE HOPE THAT HIS EYES WERE OPENED, THAT HE SAW THE ENORMITY OF WHAT HE HAD DONE, AND CHANGED HIS WAYS.
IT STILL IS MY DESIRE TO BE ABLE TO SIT IN FRONT OF HIM AND TELL HIM HOW HIS ACTIONS HURT US, HOW IT STILL AFFECTS US TO THIS DAY, AND GIVE HIM AN OPPORTUNITY TO SAY SOMETHING, ANYTHING, TO LET ME KNOW THAT HE REMEMBERS WHAT HE DID. I WOULD LOVE TO SHOW HIM A PICTURE OF MY MOTHER, MY MOMMA, AND LET HIM KNOW I STILL FEEL THE PAIN OF WHAT HE DID THAT DAY, LET HIM KNOW THAT BECAUSE OF HIS ACTIONS, HE DESTROYED MULTIPLE LIVES.



MY MOTHER, NELDA JEANETTE RUTLEDGE, AGE 63.
MY AUNT, AILEEN INGRAM, AGE 75.
PLACE OF CRASH I-35E AND US 287.

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