Friday, December 13, 2013

A life-saving lesson learned at 17

This is a follow up to my last blog about the teenager who sat in on one of the Victim Impact Panels after he had a minor drunk driving crash. His parent shared this with me:

"I think I told you that an off duty officer stopped to help A. Part of A.'s punishment was that he had to write to the officer and tell him what he had learned from the experience. A. gave me the letter he wrote today and I thought I'd share it with you. A. didn't use any names but it was obvious that out of all the people he heard you and Dustin are the two that stuck in his mind. It is rather blunt, I hope that it does not hurt you to read how he worded it. I just think it's important that you realize the impact you and Dustin truly made on him. If you can leave this impression on a 17 year old boy imagine the impression you can make with an adult.

"Dear Officer,

"I'm really sorry for doing what I did. I've realized that driving intoxicated is very dangerous to myself and more importantly to others. I was lucky, I could of killed or injured myself or worse, I could of killed or injured someone else.

"Going to that class I saw a kid's mom up there talking about how their kid died by a drunk driver, she brought her son in a box and told her story about her son. When I saw the box and saw the lady's face I thought that could have been me that put someone's kid in a box.

"It could have been me that's causing someone's family so much pain.

"I'm sorry for what I did and I'm sorry to all of the mother's and families that had to go through that. All I can say is that I give you my word I'll never do a stupid and reckless thing like that again. I would never wanna be that person that took someone else's kid's life or anyone's. I don't think I could live with myself knowing I took someone else's life away. 

"I'd like to thank you for giving me a 2nd chance.



A. is an example to us all. We can be open to admitting that bad things happen because of poor decisions, that we ourselves have made poor decisions that could have ended very badly, and that we can make a firm decision to stop doing those things again.

I really believe that most of us engage in "it won't happen to me" and "it's too horrible to think about so I'm not going to" thinking. That allows us to remain in our protective little bubble of denial about how we may be endangering ourselves or others and keeps us from even considering that we might need to change what we do. We all do it. I did it. Sometimes I still catch myself doing stupid, dangerous stuff on the road. But not nearly as much...

The tens of thousands of deaths and millions of injuries annually due to inattentive and just plain selfish driving behaviors do not have to be the cost of the convenience of driving. But we talk ourselves into believing it because it's easier than changing. Make the change. Could you live with yourself knowing you took someone else's life away, like A. said?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I reached out and someone reached back

We are making a difference, Dustin and I. The following is part of an email I received after speaking at Oregon Impact's DUII Victim Impact Panel earlier this month. The writer attended with her teenage son after he was in a drunk driving incident which did not involve police; this was her action as a parent to help him learn the possible consequences of his actions.

"...A. was very quiet at the meeting. He really didn’t want to go and he did not express much while sitting there. When the meeting was over, we left and on our drive home A. began to open up and we discussed you and Dustin. He related to Dustin as he too rides a bike and he never wears a helmet. He just could not comprehend placing blame on someone that has died. It completely blew him away that the young man that killed your son could “have the balls” to even worry about getting his license back. A. was appalled at the length of time that people were getting for killing someone when they made the choice to drink and drive; he said it was not fair. I do not feel that either of us will ever get the picture of you standing on that podium with your son next to you out of our heads.
Thanks to Julia Flucht of OPB for the picture

"You mentioned that you were saddened that only a few people remembered his birthday and that you did not want him to be forgotten. What you do not realize is that he is still alive through you, every time you share his story, every time his story saves a life. You allowed us to meet your son through you; it was obvious that he would want you to share his story, obvious that he would want to save people from his own fate. I will remember Dustin every time I look into my son's eyes. I will give credit to Dustin every time my son makes the right decision to call and to not climb behind the wheel. As parents all we can do is hope our children make the right choices, choices that will keep them and others safe from harm. Unfortunately as we all know, teenagers do not always make the right choices. I think my son learned that Mom understands what being a teenager is like, he understand that he can call me. If Dustin made an impact on A. and he never gets behind the wheel drunk again, then Dustin has made a difference in his life. If A. sees someone and says 'you can’t drive, give me your keys,' Dustin has made a difference. 

KATU's coverage of Oregon Impact's MIP Victim Impact Panel (featuring me)

"I hope my email will bring you some peace that you will realize that Dustin may not be here in the flesh but that he is speaking through you. He is saving the lives of others and he will forever live on through you and everyone that his story touches."

I cried after reading this. Sometimes I struggle with confidence, wondering if anyone really hears me, if my telling of our story is compelling enough to capture anyone's attention. There are some other incredible real life "story tellers" at these panels, believe me. But this mother's words reassures me that my most fervent wish is fulfilled: Dustin's life is making a difference...even in death. He would be so happy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion

An award-winning traffic safety activist back east told me that what probably helped him more than anything else was "shameless self-promotion." With that advice, I'm going to share in one place all that is going on.

October highlights (I also did my usual 4-5 victim impact panels):
20. Received a facebook message from a Philadelphia journalist wanting to help me to increase awareness around hit-and-run (he nearly died in a hit-and-run in 2009)
23. KATU coverage of my Oregon Impact Minor in Possession presentation.
23. KATU coverage of Faces of Fatalities featuring moms me, Mary Cooley, and Tammi Beers
26. Adopt-a-Highway clean up at milepost 2-3 on I-5.
28. Son Colin's birthday (I love you, Colin!)

1. Attended the (Oregon) Governor's Advisory Committee on DUII, was invited to also attend the Multi-Disciplinary Training Task Force which meets afterward.
4. Received email from Joseph Rose of oregonlive that he'd like to use some of my comments on a follow-up article regarding hit-and-run.
4. Presented at the Trauma Nurses Talk Tough DUII Victim Impact Panel.
5. Spoke with that award-winning activist mentioned above, Tim Hollister, who wrote the book Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving
7. Received an email from a victim's advocacy program coordinator who saw my presentation at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, asking if I'd present at her organization and collaborate with them on victim's rights and education.
8. Sent an early morning email to a couple of safety guys at Portland Bureau of Transportation and got a nearly immediate response about partnering with them and the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division.
8. Received an email from George Rede, OpEd of Forest Grove Leader and Hillsboro Argus asking me to consider writing a guest column on drunk driving.
11. Dustin's 31st Birthday and my second wedding anniversary (I love you, Glenn! I love you, Dustin!)
12. Recruited another mom of a hit-and-run victim to support our cause. Yay, Dawn!
12. Presented at Oregon Impact DUII Victim Impact Panel.
12. Heard that Oregon Liquor Control Commission is interested in doing a documentary on Dustin's story. 
13. Meeting with attorney Joshua Shulman's assistant Maureen to learn about my own website.Awesome.
14. Phone call scheduled with George Rede (see 8) to discuss my guest article including word count and deadline.
15. Attending the sentencing of the woman who hit and severely injured 20 year old Henry Schmidt. Henry's mom Kathi is also on board with our mission and Mike Cooley's mom will be there for support also.
16. My wonderful Dad's birthday.
17. My wonderful husband's birthday.
18. Presenting at the Clark County DUII Victim Impact Panel for the second time. 
20. Attending the Compassionate Friends, a support group for bereaved parents, grandparents, and siblings.
23. Presenting at High Risk Driver Class.

December high-lights so far (plus the normal five VIP classes):
6. Attending the Governor's Advisory Committee on DUII with Joan Miller, fellow DUII VIP presenter, hit-and-run DUII victim, traumatic brain injury survivor, co-founder of birrdsong (non-profit support and education for those with brain injury).
6. Attending the Multi-Disciplinary Training Task Force meeting.
7. Presenting at the Crime Victims and Law Enforcement Symposium at Western Oregon University
8. Attending the Worldwide Candlelighting Ceremony for deceased children of all ages.

There it is. My shameless self-promotion. I fully intend that this is really going to pay off some day soon!

Monday, November 11, 2013

He was pushing 30... and didn't make it

Dustin would be 31 tomorrow. And because what I really feel like is breaking down and blubbering and sobbing uncontrollably and howling and dying myself thinking of the loss to everyone who loved him and the loss to himself and how this type of grief is unlike any pain I ever could have imagined, I'm going to post some of the wonderful things people had to say about him.
Joe, Logan, Colin, & Dustin: Wahkeena Falls 2010

"Dustin was [very] eloquent. He was really well spoken, thoughtful, principled, and apprised."

"[He was] tireless in the fight for equality for all people. All minorities, men, women, children to be treated with equal rights and respect."

At James' and Elvina's
"He was confident and he walked with poise. The man had some real determination. He was such a good guy. He wasn't a kid anymore. He was a man. We loved Dusty." "Then overnight, the potential exploded." "He was really going somewhere. He was well read and thoughtful and the maturity and self esteem over the last year was palpable. Once he made up his mind nothing was going to stop him." "Dude, I never understood how much of my life you had become."

"[Dusty was] very well read, really politically astute. He was just all muscle because of all the work he did, and he had a great brain too."

"Dusty always had poise and a wonderful mind." 

"Unlike so many late 20'somehings in our time he chose to enrich his life instead of wasting it. He broke current norms and decided to grow up. So sad that we will never see the fruit from the seeds he had planted in his life."

"Dustin really impressed me with his passion for and his ability to do research on separation of church and state issues. It's going to be hard to fill his shoes."
2010 Gay Pride Parade (he designed the t-shirts)

"[Dustin's] passing has been noted by many who had never even met him, both in the environmental movement and the freethought community, which were among his many interests. For those of you who met this young man at the Northwest Freethought Conference earlier this year and saw his passion for bringing science and reason without supernaturalism to his generation, no doubt you were as impressed as the several organizers of groups in attendance who scrambled to get him on board as a youth liaison."

"He was an inspiration and an example of someone who not only had great ideas but followed through with verve and intelligence."

Board Members of Americans United May 2011
"Dustin was a rising star in the freethought community. He was fully committed to humanist values, separation of church and state, equality for all people, environmental protection, and actively taking a stand for your beliefs regardless of who that offends. It is rare to find a volunteer who had both the passion and ability to pull off projects such as he tackled."

 "He was so focused, and friendly."

"He was 'On Fire' ! ... SERIOUSLY!!!" 

5th grade, rocking a mullet!
"U were the only kid in our 5th grade class that wore flannels and rocked the mullet!!!!"
Loved playing soccer

"Dustin u were a great individual.. although I hadn't seen you since the 9th grade, the good old days when we would hike thru David Douglas park, have pinecone wars till we almost passed out, spending the day hanging at the bench and skateboarding thru town without a care in the world, these are some of the best memories of my youth."

"I loved Dusty so much. He will be missed."

"He truly was a beautiful man inside and out." 

"Members of local political organizations frequently got invitations to volunteer with Dustin at the Oregon Food Bank. He was full of life and brought the fun. He is missed in our corner of the world as well." 

"I was always impressed at how intelligent & sweet he was... I knew that he was a stand up guy of great character. My prayers & thoughts go out to all of Dustin's friends & family that are affected by the loss of such a beautiful soul. "

"On my 18th birthday, just a few minutes after midnight, Dustin sent me a text that said 'happy birthday, little sister. Welcome to adulthood. Everything sucks from here on out. It just gets worse.' Haha I love him and his sense of humor. He was remarkable. His impersonations were so funny and his laugh was contagious." 

Dustin and the "infamous owl"
"He was a unique individual in all the right ways. Dustin was definitely going somewhere because he had passion for life and uncommon wisdom."

Dustin was my oldest child. When I had him at the age of 18, I learned instantly that I could be "in love" with a baby. I am so happy now especially that we had the first three years of his life together, just the two of us (well, his dad, too, but we spent a lot of time together just us two).

I am so grateful that even though we had it rough when he was a kid, due to poverty and domestic violence and drug abuse and the abandonment by his and Colin's father, that he grew up into a man with such integrity and caring and compassion. And passion. I love that he figured out what he wanted and went after it full bore, that he wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in regardless of the popularity of his beliefs. He once told me that he wished I had taught him how to be assertive. I told him I couldn't teach him what I didn't know myself. Well, he taught himself how to be assertive and by his example I am learning it now. One of my favorite things I found on the internet after he was killed was a statement he wrote at the end of a controversial opinion on a blog post: "I invite rebuttal."  It reminds me that everyone is not going to agree with what I do or how I do it or even like me (which is hard for me to believe!), but I'm going to speak up anyway because it needs to be said and I am driven to say it.

Thank you for all the "I love yous," Dustin. It means the world to me knowing those were our last words to each other. I will love you forever.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Outside my comfort zone even more!

Today I finally gathered the nerve and attended the (Oregon) Governor's Advisory Committee on DUII. Many thanks to nurse Shelley Campbell of Trauma Nurses Talk Tough for inviting me, for showing her confidence in me where I didn't yet have it myself.

There were about 25 people there, liaisons and representatives from all kinds of different agencies across Oregon, including Oregon State Police, Oregon Transportation Safety Committee, Oregon State Sheriff's Association, Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor, Addictions and Mental Health Division, Dept of Public Safety, Standards and Training, Driver and Motor Vehicle Services, DUII Multi-Disciplinary Task Force, Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, Oregon District Attorney's Association, Oregon Judicial Dept, and and Oregon Liquor Control Board. An article I read also stated that DUII drivers and victims of DUII drivers were members also, but I believe I was the only victim's family there.

Chuck Hayes, Chairman GAC

At the start of each monthly meeting, committee members take a moment of silence, led by Chairman Chuck Hayes, retired Oregon State Police Captain, and now one of two national coordinators and a trainer for the Drug Recognition Expert Program. “It is for the people that lost their lives or have been seriously injured by an impaired driver,” Hayes said. “Let’s remember what we do here.”

It felt amazing for me to sit in on this committee with all the professionals (25). It was wonderful to hear the discussions that clearly demonstrated that these people take DUII seriously and really want to prevent further devastation on the roads and to families. It was clear that there is no clear cut answer to anything, that things that seem commonsense to me and a "no brainer" are controversial or unconstitutional or ... all kinds of things I'd never thought of.

Take (part of) the first topic today: the definition of the word "intoxicants." Should they use "drug"? No, that probably narrows it down too much. Should they use "any impairing substance"?

They talked about the increasing likelihood of marijuana becoming legal in Oregon and how they are researching other state's laws and what is happening in Washington and Colorado, what is working and what isn't and what surprises have come up and how to avoid them.

There was much, much more. Every person there (except newbie me) was valued and specifically asked for their input and given things to do. Everyone was admonished to "think outside the box." Everyone was encouraged to think about events or outreach that could result in media coverage that would increase awareness and knowledge with the public.

I was very impressed, very humbled, and made to feel welcome. Maybe I have more to offer than just being a bereaved mom. I'm wracking my own brain to think outside the box. I can't wait to go back next month.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Time is Cruel

"Time heals all wounds." "It will get better with time."

I've heard these words about the passage of time numerous times since Dustin died. In a way they are true because certainly I don't cry as often as I used to, I'm not caught as unawares by triggering events or words or songs or whatever. And when these things do happen, I've learned better how to deal with them so they are not as disruptive and upsetting (for the most part). But what has surprised me is the resistance I feel to allowing time to be a good thing. 

The first happiest day of my life: 11/11/82
What is more important to us than our own child? How can I even conceive of wanting to be healed of missing him, of mourning the loss of his life not only for me and others, but for him? The thought of allowing it to "get better with time" fills me with guilt because the only way I can imagine that happening is if he becomes less important to me. I can never let my child become less important to me! What kind of mother would I be?

So the passing of time fills me with dread. What it really means to me is that it is just that much longer that I haven't seen him, talked to him, heard him say "I love you, Mom." It just increases the distance between us and at times, like now, it makes me wonder how I can survive how agonizing that is. He isn't just on a trip or living across the country or even the world; I can't contact him in any way. There are just nothing but memories and pictures anymore.

Maybe time makes some things easier; I've experienced that myself. But now, time has never seemed more cruel.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hit and Runs: the Heinousness Continues

Across the nation – and world – the crime of hit-and-run continues to happen. I’ve often read comments after these crimes where someone will say, “These are getting so common in [whatever area]." But it appears they really are fairly common all over. Here’s a sample of headlines and my synopsis of stories from the past week:

Cops investigate Great Neck hit and run that injured twin sisters

54 year old sisters, unnamed, on a walk at 6:20 p.m.were struck from behind, resulting in one with non-life-threatening injuries, the other in critical condition with head trauma and internal injuries. The driver is still at large and no info about the vehicle was provided. 

Hartford official hurt in hit-and-run crash

Terry Waller and Saundra Kee Borges suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being struck in their vehicle by a driver running a red-light around 11:30 p.m. The driver was apprehended shortly after and charged with evading responsibility and failure to obey a traffic signal. His stated reason for running? He had to go to the bathroom.

Hit-and-run mystery death in Atherton

Jeffry Zeman, 60: found dead in the middle of a street around 5:30 a.m. Evidence showed that he “had been dragged some distance by a vehicle” and “could have been hit several hours before he was found.” No evidence was found. The driver is still free. 

Trans Woman Killed in Hollywood Hit-and-Run

Unique McKenzie, 22: killed around 2:30 a.m. after slipping off a sidewalk into the road and being struck by a car. The police have video of the collision and have released video of the car to the public. The article referenced there being over 14,000 hit-and-runs in L.A. in 2013 so far.

Police make arrest in deadly hit and run

Victor Haskell, 53: killed around 12:15 a.m. while riding his bike home from work. He was discovered 8 hours later. Vehicle information given to the public resulted in Gavin Haley, 31, turning himself in at the same time police arrived at his door. In Idaho, hit and run involving injury is a felony with up to five years in prison, a $5000 fine, and one year license revocation. 

Detroit man charged with hit-and-run that killed 8-year-old boy
Darrin Wilhite, no dreams lived

Darrin Wilhite, 8: struck and killed by an allegedly speeding driver. Darrin and his bike were dragged “for blocks.” Alfonso Butler, 47, turned himself in the next day and is charged with leaving the scene of an injury accident causing death, with a maximum sentence of 5 years.


Man charged over hit-and-run death of policeman

Andrew Duncan, 47: a London police officer killed attempting to stop a speeding driver. 25 year old Gary Bromige has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident, and driving without insurance. Two other men, 19 and 23, unnamed, were also charged with causing death by dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident. 

Police look for Malibu after hit-and-run
Michael Robertson

Michael Robertson, 59: died on an Indianapolis sidewalk because disputing co-workers were driving side by side with occupants of one vehicle attempting to hit the other vehicle with a baseball bat when the driver of the bat-wielding vehicle hit Robertson instead. The driver, Nikia Acuff, sought legal counsel before turning herself in. A passenger, Felicia Moss, was also arrested. No information has been provided on charges. 

Ghostbike at the scene of double fatality

Second cyclist dies after Chapel Hill hit and run

Ivin Scurlock, 41, and Alexandra Simou, 40: struck from behind while riding their bikes along a highway in North Carolina around 11:20 p.m. Scurlock died at the scene and Simou died a couple days later. The driver is still at large. There was no vehicle information.

So here, in a one-week span, with me just searching "hit and run," we have nine collisions that resulted in four injuries - one of them life-threatening - and eight fatalities. The ages of the victims ranged from 8 to 60. One of the fatalities stemmed from a woman actually falling into the road in front of a vehicle that "could not stop" according to reports, so possibly no crime could have been determined until the driver then didn't stop. What is notable is that of the nine collisions, only one involved vehicle-on-vehicle impact. People walking and riding bikes are disproportionately in a higher percentage of hit and runs than people in automobiles, presumably because there is much less damage from striking a person than a multi-ton vehicle, so it is much easier to drive away. 

All my research of hit and runs lead me to believe that people do not leave the scene because they "didn't know" they hit anyone or they were "afraid." They leave because they either are doing something illegal right then (drinking, driving while suspended, using a cell phone, driving recklessly) or have done something in the past which will result in increased penalties (history of reckless driving or DUII, are on probation or parole for a previous crime, etc). 

Hit and run is a heinous crime committed usually by people we would never suspect would be so uncaring. These people generally are our family members, co-workers, friends, or neighbors whose illegal behavior isn't apparent or of concern until they hurt someone else and then leave the victim(s) dead, dying, or injured while they head off to cover their own hides, hopefully (for them) forever.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For: Not Just Words to Me Anymore

Wow. The developments this week have really taken me by surprise. Welcome surprise, but still stressful. Here are some links to what I'm talking about:

KOIN News broadcast of 9/25/13:

BikePortland article of 9/25/13:

And from a few weeks ago:

BikePortland again (I love BikePortland!):

KPTV News broadcast of 8/23/13:

I thought I had just been coasting along, going relatively unnoticed (I even took August off, to focus on mourning Dustin), but apparently things were percolating behind the scenes. This is what I've wanted, truly, it's just scary. I'm just a mom who can't stand to let the death of my son go, who doesn't want the pain my family feels to be echoed in the hearts of other families. And most of all, who doesn't want Dustin to be forgotten.

My Wednesday was planned out ahead of time: Work till 12:30, attend the unveiling ceremony of the Memorial Wall for Murder Victims in Oregon City at 1:00, and attend the National Remembrance Day for Victims of Murder and Vehicular Homicide in Woodland at 6:30.

I worked, as planned. I attended the unveiling as planned. Not planned was approaching guest speaker and award-winning victim advocate Steve Doell and saying, "What more can I do?" His response was that our meeting must have been "providence" because he's been looking for people to testify before the legislature about proposed changes in sentences, including hit-and-run and vehicular homicide. So I was pretty stoked about that... even though Steve is apparently a controversial person whose politics I may not totally agree with.

At home I saw an email from the woman who set up the Faces of Fatalities website, saying I had gotten a message from a KOIN News reporter. She gave him my numbe and he had sent me a text asking for an interview. I scheduled that with him and hurriedly called Mary Cooley, mother of hit-and-run victim Mike Cooley, whom I had met just the week before at a benefit to help raise money for needed home renovations (to accommodate his wheelchair, since he is now paralyzed). She dropped everything and we were able to do the interview together, which generated renewed publicity for Mike's case, which has not been solved. This type of collaboration and pooling of voices is exactly what I've been hoping for over the past two years.

Once I was home again, I spent quite some time answering an email to Jonathan Maus of BikePortland, who had written a few days prior that he had just become aware of my website and would like to do an article. It wasn't until this morning that I learned he had already posted the article yesterday. And quite the article, too, as you can see from the link above. Then I went to my own website which I had done virtually nothing with because I thought no one was paying attention anyway and there was a request from KPAM for an interview and in my email there was a request from KATU! Not only that, there were comments from a few people who don't even live around here,one referencing a hit-and-run in Chico, CA, another commenting about ghostbikes.

I hope I have it within me to do what needs to be done now. My husband thinks I do. (Thanks, honey! You are terrific support)!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Media here and media there

This is just a quick post to link a couple articles. I have been fortunate to garner some media attention in the past few days, due to some unpleasant events. Most recently, I wrote about young Henry Schmidt, a victim of hit-and-run a couple weeks ago. A couple months before that, Mike Cooley was also severely injured in a hit-and-run. They were both riding their bikes home from work; okay, technically Henry was pushing his bike because it had a flat tire. But both were just minding their own business, legally on the road after a full day's work.

Henry has had some good news: on Thursday, a young woman turned herself in (after an auto mechanic called the police to report the suspect car had been taken to him for repair). Unfortunately, still no word in Mike's case. posted an article about Henry's case and I made a comment about the results of research I've done since Dustin died. This prompted a call from News Editor Michael Anderson for an interview, which I of course granted. I am pleased to see that attorney Joshua Shulman also was interviewed. Here's the article

On Friday, I went to the arraignment of the reported driver in Henry's case. She is 29 years old, employed at a bar, and a mother of a 2 1/2 year old. I hope the child wasn't in the car during the crime! She plead not guilty and was allowed to leave with no restrictions other than to not drink and not drive. She was already driving illegally. She has a history of at least two convictions for PCS (possession of a controlled substance) and has been multiple traffic infractions and has had her license suspended 4 times in the past few years. Unbelievable.

I introduced myself to Henry's mother and at her request gave her my contact information. Then I boldly went up to a KPTV reporter who had interviewed me two years ago when Dustin was killed. She didn't have time to talk to me much but later in the afternoon I got a call from reporter Kai Porter asking for an interview. Here is that broadcast/article:

 Hopefully something good comes out of this.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Thankfully He's Alive!

Henry Schmidt, KGW

On the news tonight was a story about 20 year old Henry Schmidt, hit by a car and left critically injured in the street. This young man, simply riding his bike home from work, was struck by a person who didn’t care what condition Henry was in after they plowed into him, didn’t care that he could be hit again, didn’t care if he was left alone to die on a dirty road like a possum. 

Fortunately, he was discovered by people on a Tri-met bus before the worst could happen. Emergency personnel was called and he is now in the ICU at Oregon Health and Sciences University. By all accounts, he will hopefully eventually make a full recovery, though he will have to endure months of rehabilitation and possibly a lifetime of lingering pain from his injuries (I’m just presuming this last part; I hope I’m wrong!).
His mother, speaking for his family, is shaken by what all of us affected by hit-and-run are shaken by: a person causing such a serious [crash] and just leaving the scene. Yes, a person knowingly leaving a human being dead or dying. 

In a Trauma Nurses Talk Tough presentation in Clark County, Washington, a nurse explains the “Golden Hour” as the time immediately after a traumatic injury in which it is critical to get help for the injured because things can so rapidly deteriorate. This term was also used in testimony before the Oregon House Judiciary Committee in April 2013 as one reason why hit-and-run is so devastating and must be treated more seriously. The cowardly hit-and-run driver, in saving him or herself, is basically ensuring that their victim will suffer even more, one way or another. 

Kipp Crawford, from
Take the story of 31 year old Kipp Crawford who was killed in November 2009. Granted, it is believed that initially he was assaulted while riding his bike and ended up in the roadway, but then two separate drivers ran him over and left him there. Yes, two different people drove over him and both of them kept going. Ultimately, it couldn’t be decided who was responsible for killing him, so they were both convicted. (The person who assaulted him to begin with has never been found). 

Henry is so fortunate! He has survived and will recover. His parents have not lost their child. Yet even if the cowardly person who injured him so cruelly is caught and questioned, there will never be a satisfactory answer to the question of how they could just leave.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Last "I Love You"

Two years ago today I saw my oldest child for the last time. Twelve days later he was dead.

Last picture 7/31/11
I am so grateful that Jenna wanted a family camping trip for her 20th birthday. Because of that, our family was mostly together that weekend, camping, hiking, enjoying the great outdoors. Jenna chose Lower Falls Campground on the Lewis River, a beautiful area of waterfalls, a few old growth trees, majestic mountains, and pitch dark nights to best appreciate the multitude of stars overhead. 

Dustin rode up with my boyfriend Glenn after work. It apparently was an exciting ride. Glenn - who I think would drive a beater even if we were millionaires – drove his ’95 Dodge Caravan. With no warning, in the dark, the headlights went out. They didn’t crash… even though the headlights went out twice on those dark, twisty, hilly roads. It’s a good thing Glenn is pretty good under pressure… and a mechanic!

I think the imprints from Dustin’s fingers are still in the dashboard.

Also on the way up, Glenn told Dustin he was thinking about marrying me and asked what he thought about that. Reportedly, Dustin said, “It’s about f***ing time.” Yes, Glenn and I had been together about six years by then. Dustin and he liked each other a lot and Dustin could see that Glenn made me happier than I’d ever been. It makes me feel good to know that my son was happy about my happiness. After Dustin’s death, Glenn stated that he would like to get married on Dustin’s birthday to honor him. So we did.

Lower Falls of the Lewis River
We all had a fun weekend camping. During the day Saturday we hiked the trail along the Lewis River, past Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. Their names certainly do not do justice to how beautiful these falls are! We took pictures of Dustin and Jenna inside a fallen log above Middle Falls and in front of a very large old growth Douglas Fir. 
"Take the picture! Every second I look more forced!"

 Saturday night a camper from two sites over apparently thought we were more entertaining than the group he was with, so “Boot” joined us and he and Dustin drank and debated and argued late into the night. I’m a reader, not a debater, so I retired to the tent with whatever thriller or mystery I happened to be reading, and had to smile every time I heard Dustin say to Boot, “You just don’t understand.” Dustin could be pretty opinionated. Sounded like Boot was, too. And I could also hear Glenn, trying to mediate between the two.

Dustin didn’t like to be a “sissy” camper so he refused to sleep in a tent, preferring to sleep in a cheap hammock strung between two trees. A hard thing to maneuver into after a night of drinking, even with his mother’s and sister’s help. That night he ended up sleeping on the ground.

These are my last memories of my precious son. Today, two years later, they are bittersweet. I love thinking of the happy times we had with Dustin, of his idiosyncrasies, obstinacy, loving nature. I hate thinking there can be no more of them.