Thank you Justin

by Matthew Van Hoose
(Antioch, TN)

It was December of 2001 in West Palm Beach, FL…the seventeenth to be exact. It’s been about eight years and I will never forget that day. Some friends of mine and I were leaving a club. Being the drunkest one out of the four of us we all decided I should drive. That was something we would do for fun. Whoever was the most drunk would have to drive, it just made the rest of us laugh our asses off weaving all over the roads to get to the next club or whatever party we had been invited to. I remember I was so drunk that it took two of us just to get the key in the ignition. First I put the car in “D” to “Drive Backwards’…didn’t quite work out right but luckily that big wall was there. We finally get out of the parking lot, trying to find our way to an apartment complex where one of my friend’s ex-girl lived where he had promised us there would be a lot of women there. I was all about some women! So we decided to take back roads to avoid the cops and have more fun squealing the tires around every curve in the road we came to. Blaring Green Day and laughing our asses off, I looked up and saw that the road was making a ninety degree curve to the right which I knew we weren’t going to make. I slammed on the brakes and we went off the road, bounced over a ditch and slammed to a stop. I finally opened my eyes to see one of my friends who was in the backseat somehow ended up with his ass upside down on the dash. I remember how weird it was that the Green Day CD had stopped playing and the one headlight shining through the smoke I could see another car and I just couldn’t understand what it was doing there. Then it hit me….I was drunk, we went too fast into a curve, and another car coming in the other direction had swerved in front of me….I think. Just then, I realized the seriousness of the situation and all my friends seemed to disappear. I tried to open the door but it was so wedged into the dirt and grass that it wouldn’t budge. I climbed out the window waving the smoke out of my face so I could see through all the smoke. I could tell that the other car had been hit very badly and I knew that the person inside had to be injured badly if they were still alive. I limped around the front of my car and looked into the other…it was empty. Shit, I had hit them and they rolled out? I started crying and yelling for anyone to answer me.

“Hello?!? I’m so sorry! Where are you?!? Oh, my fucking God! What the fuck?!?”

I could taste the dirt and dust being swept by my tears across my top lip mixed with some type of pineapple cocktail I had stolen on my way to the bathroom before I left the club. I walked all the way around the car. For some reason I couldn’t hear any of my friends…just the hissing noise coming from something dripping on the hot engine of my car. I got all the way around the car and back to the driver’s side door of the car I hit. My car was about a foot from the other car when I looked at the front of my car there wasn’t a dent. A lot of grass and roots but not a dent. I looked at the driver’s door of the other car and saw a picture of some kid and some dates. I was so drunk and confused that I sat down to get a better look. Justin? 1999? Will be missed? That is when I realized that I had jumped a ditch into a cemetery and this car was a headstone. After some research I finally found out that Justin had been a high school student that was hit by a drunk driver and his parents used the car he died in as his headstone and reminder to the dangers of drinking and driving. I left my car there that night and my friends and I called a ride and got to the apartment where there were no girls…except for his…for him. Got a tow truck the next morning and claimed that a deer had ran out in front of me…good ol’ deer story. This was my last time drinking and driving. Every time I think about it I think about Justin and what must have been going through his mind before he died. I can’t imagine being responsible for taking someone’s family member away from them. A pain that last way longer then any prison sentence. Thank you Justin for changing my life and probably saving the lives of others I could have killed.

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