Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting started with our story

It’s an old cliché but true: life takes us unexpected places. Some welcome, some not. I think I will like this new part, this writing part, of the unexpected path my life has taken in the past 13 months. If only it hadn’t taken my child dying to get me here. Because frankly, I’d rather still not be writing and have him back. I’d rather still be ignorant in ways I am no longer ignorant and have him alive.

July 31, 2011 at Lower Falls Campground on the Lewis River. This is the last picture we took of Dustin. He was killed 12 days later.
Dustin was 28 years old when his life was violently ended by a drunk driver. He was not the driver’s only victim at the crash scene. A teenager, Kevin, was also struck. Kevin was knocked down, thankfully suffering just minor physical injuries. Kevin was the one who experienced Dustin flying past him, he was the one who witnessed Dustin’s death, the one who had to see the aftermath: the bruised and bloody and broken body of a young man he’d never known. And Kevin understood that it could have been him.

I am so glad that Kevin had no real physical injuries to go with the emotional scars and wounds that he may have for the rest of his life because of the selfish and self-centered actions taken by a young man who not only killed one person and injured another, but then left them both behind on the roadway like garbage.

Hit-and-run: a selfish crime of immorality. I’m not going to get into it much right now, but it hurts to know that Dustin was left dead on the road, that the person who killed him had no concern for him whatsoever. The 18 year old driver didn’t know what condition Dustin was in. He didn’t know what condition Kevin was in. He didn’t care to find out. He didn’t care that Kevin had to see the damage he had done while he himself was spared that horror.  

The large green outline was where Dustin hit the ground 80 feet from impact. He slid another 95 feet to just past where the people are.
He didn’t even have to see what I saw the next day when I went to the crime scene: the paint marks indicating various aspects of the crash, green for Dustin and orange for Kevin; the remains of the pool of blood where Dustin first hit the ground; tufts of Dustin’s hair mixed in with the filth along the curb where he came to rest; minuscule remnants of bikes strewn along the road. He didn’t see the sign suspended over the crash site that read: Portland Safety Corridor. Hang up and drive (it didn’t matter to me that it didn’t say Don’t drink and drive; it was still a reminder to drive safely. A reminder that meant nothing and made no difference).

Ashawntae Rosemon fled the scene of the crime and in doing so avoided seeing and experiencing the physical result of what he did. He should have seen it. He deserved to see it. He deserves to still see it in his mind’s eye whenever he thinks about what he did. I thought briefly just now that perhaps what he imagines is worse than what he would have seen (you know how we can make something worse in our minds than it really is), but could he really imagine worse than what actually was? He did kill someone, after all. Violently. Senselessly. Recklessly.

So, it feels good to get this stuff out in writing, though I resist using the term “good” in any context having to do with the loss of Dustin. But I love to write, always have, although I always thought I’d write about love or domestic violence or nature… not my personal thoughts surrounding the death of the first greatest love of my life. No one should have to write about the death of their child. It’s just not supposed to be this way.


  1. I know how much you agonized over this first story....but,I knew you would do a great job, having had the privilege to read some of your earlier poems and stories...Perfect/concise, you have started this blog with the right attitude and just enough information to lead the reader wanting more... not overloading them with too much too soon. You have the talent and many stories to tell and points to make, with the very real possibility of making something good from what was/is a horrible nightmare...a great beginning, now tell us more!

  2. I love you, Glenn. Thanks so much for your support and your belief in me. Thanks for loving me even during those times when my grief is more than I can handle reasonably. I know that it is hard to know what to do sometimes. But you always mean so much to me.

  3. As Kristi's brother, my life was also changed on 8/12/11 when Kristi called me to tell me the horrible news. If I wasn't already sitting I probably would have fallen down from weakness. I couldn't get down to Vancouver fast enough to join my family to start this painful process. I also have two other perspectives, and my pride almost kept me from writing about this first one. As much as I am ashamed to admit, I have also driven after drinking and, but for the grace of God, I could have been in a situation much worse than what I experienced from the court system. Despite my experiences, I find it hard to have empathy for anyone who kills someone in a drunk driving accident, even though I could have been in a similar situation myself. I have seen firsthand how these senseless deaths can negatively affect the family and friends of both the victims and the perpetrators. It's one of those things that you think will never happen to you....but, indeed, it can, as a victim or otherwise. My other perspective is that of an avid bicyclist. I have had several close calls and know friends who have died or been close to death due to bicycle accidents. As bicyclists, we need to be responsible for our actions on the road. Most bicylists are very responsible, however, it only takes a few to give us a bad name. I recall reading published comments about Dustin's incident from people assuming that he was riding carelessly, even though he was in a bike lane riding with the direction of traffic just like he should. Also, even though in Dustin's case, a helmet may not have saved his life, helmets do indeed save lives and reduce injuries in the vast majority of accidents (same with motorcycles). Dealing with the death of a family member is never easy. A senseless tragedy is even harder. We all have to do the best we can to deal with the grief. This blog seems like a good avenue to that end. Thanks for starting it, Kristi, and for all of your other efforts to improve safety on the roads.

    1. I love you, Loren, and you have been one of my strongest and most consistent supporters during this past year. It did mean so much to me that you dropped everything and were at our house so quickly. Also that you were the first to speak to the TV crew on camera on our behalf (even though they did edit you out because I guess hearing from the mother is more newsworthy than hearing from the uncle). And you did so much more. Your sax playing at the Memorial and my wedding was spectacular. (I had always intended that you would play if I ever got married again).

      Thank you so much for your honesty and openness here. I never was arrested but I remember distinctly a couple times I drove knowing I'd had too much to drink. That was many, many years ago, before Logan and Jenna, and I am so glad there was no horrible outcome... That's putting it mildly, viewing it from my new perspective.

      I worry about you and everyone else still riding; Logan rides to school every day. I told him I'll pay for the batteries so he can have his lights on front and back all the time. And he does wear his helmet. Although Dustin couldn't have been saved by a helmet (he died of severe whiplash), I encourage people to wear them at all my presentations.

      Part of this blog will be dealing with my grief. But the main purpose right now is to get me more familiar with working with a webpage and speaking/writing publicly as practice, I guess, for when my actual website goes up. I am working with Maureen, Joshua Shulman's assistant at Shulman DuBois LLC. Josh is an attorney who is passionate about preventing hit and runs and changing the laws. He has asked me to be the victim's voice when speaking to the legislators, etc. To that end, he has offered Maureen's services free of charge. I've just been somewhat lethargic lately so things have not progressed very quickly. But I am sooooo looking forward to connecting with and possibly helping others who've had similar experiences and are looking for resources or comfort or a way to change things themselves.

      Well, I didn't intend this response to turn out quite this way, but I'm going to keep it anyway.

      Thanks again for being such a supportive and loving big brother.