The names, the place, and the time have all been changed to protect the parties involved but the events of this story are true.
I knew this man of whom I am going to speak of in this story. Though not really close friends, we had grown up together and had attended the same high school.
Mark had become a well respected journeyman electrician with a wonderful family of three boys and a lovely wife. They attended their church of choice every Sunday and were involved in a Bible study group.
Mark got up really early one morning, had breakfast, kissed his wife of 15 years, wished her a wonderful day, advising her he would be very late in getting home so not to hold dinner for him, looked in on his sleeping children, and loading up his pickup he headed off to work.
It was one of those days where everything just seemed to pile up. Some of the parts he needed to do the job turned out to be the wrong size, so he had to make a trip to the supplier to get the right ones. He broke a power drill so had to resort to a hand operated drill. An employee told him he needed to have the day off because of some personal problems at home which left Mark one man short. And the weather had turned off so hot it was difficult to keep from getting sick.
Around 6:00 pm Mark put away his tools, got into his pickup and drove to the nearest bar just for a cool one before heading for home. He got to talking with a couple of other contractors who also had just stopped for a quick happy hour drink. One drink lead to another until Mark had became totally inebriated. One of the other contractors volunteered to drive Mark home, but Mark said he was okay to drive and besides it wasn’t that far. Reluctantly, the other contractors let him go. He drove off into the cool evening.
In the meantime a young couple in their little VW Bug was making their way along the Pack River Flats with their windows down enjoying the sights and sounds of the cool evening. As they approached the intersection in the road which would take them to their home, they pulled over as far as they could to be out of the flow of traffic and were sitting there waiting to turn. Unbeknownst to them, they would never see their home again.
In the twilight shadow, Mark could see where he needed to turn but he didn’t see the little VW Bug sitting waiting for traffic to clear so they could make the same turn he would need to make. He never made any attempt to brake or slow his work pickup down but hit the back of the little car, causing him to go right over the top of it. The highway patrolman who got to the scene first said the only saving grace was the young couple never knew what hit them. They died instantly at the scene of the accident.
When the officer approached the pickup he could see the front axle had been completely ripped from the front of the vehicle with the chassis sitting on the pavement. Mark was still in the pickup shifting the gears in an attempt to drive forward. His blood alcohol level was .14, even after a delay of several hours due to the mayhem of the accident.
Mark was sentenced to 15 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter with no possibility of getting his driving privileges ever restored.
Fast forward this story 15 years.
I heard a voice which sounded familiar to me coming from the reception area of our office. The voice was asking if I were in. I stepped away from my desk and met the person whose voice I remembered. It was Mark.
He looked much older, his hair had thinned, he was wearing a beard, and his clothes fit loosely about his body. “Do you remember me?”
“Yes, Mark, I remember you. It’s good to see you!”
“Do you have a little time to spare?”
“Of course, I do.”
“I just got out of prison a couple of months ago and I needed someone to talk to. Just before I caused that terrible accident, I made the worst mistake of my life. I was really tired and stressed out when I went into that bar. My intention was to have one beer to cool off and then go home. If only I had stayed with my commitment. When those other guys came in and ask me to have a drink with them I thought, sure why not. You know I don’t drink much, but as we talked one beer lead to another until I had no control. Since I felt relaxed and no longer caring about my worries I just let myself go.
“When I sobered up in jail and was told what I had done, I felt my world had come to an end. Little did I realize how much it would change.
“I knew from my religious background the taking of someone else’s life could be considered murder, and in my own mind I felt I had done just that. And not only once but twice.
“I plead guilty to the charges with the thought that maybe I could compensate for the grief I had caused by giving up my own freedom.
“A few years after my being in prison, my wife could not take the public humiliation she felt for what I had done so she filed for divorce, took back her maiden name, and moved away. My boys still will not speak to me and have made it clear they want nothing to do with me. I don’t know where they are now.
“Because I had no prior criminal record and my time in prison was spent trying to help others deal with circumstances similar to mine, when I got out the parole board recommended I be able to get permission to drive myself to and from work. Since I wanted to continue my work with alcoholics by being involved in AA, they also requested I be given driving privileges to attend those meetings. Fortunately for me, I knew the judge who was to make that decision and was so grateful she consented.
“I have started up my electrical business again with the hope in mind I can somehow show my family I really have a desire to make things right.
“If only I had made the decision to have just one beer and had the discipline to do so, I would not now be waking up every night alone and wondering what else can I do. I realize I cannot give back the lives I took, and that will haunt me all my days. All I can hope for is some power beyond mine will somehow make things right. I never wanted to hurt anyone but look what I did.”
We talked a little more about his feelings and then set about getting an SR22 filing so he could meet that requirement of the court. One of the saddest and sobering days of my career.
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