The Man in the Red Shirt

By Jessi Scott

I remember the morning of April 12, 2006 so clearly. I woke to the sound of knocking on the door and immediately noticed that Michael wasn’t home. I went downstairs to find two policemen and another man at the door.  The other man wore a red shirt and in white cursive the title of “Chaplain.” I did not notice that title until he asked me to sit down on the couch. I could literally hear my heartbeat as the anxiety of the moment seemed to boil over in the room.
The man in the red shirt proceeded to tell me why they were there. My boyfriend, the man I loved and planned to marry, had been in a wreck early that morning. He was in ICU. Chris and David, both friends of ours, had not made it. They had been killed instantly by someone’s choice to drink and drive. 
When the words came out of his mouth, I was changed instantly. The na├»ve twenty-something I had been disappeared and my life began to play in slow motion. I knew almost immediately that someday I would share this story which later in life led me to Victims’ Impact Panel of Oklahoma and the career I have today. However, it would take some time to get to that point.
At that moment, and in the following years, my life seemed to spiral. I began to fear constantly that someone else would die; every emergency siren put me on high alert. Every night brought vivid dreams and all too often nightmares about my friends.  I clung to the last moment I had seen David and pleaded with God to tell him all the things I hadn’t said. If only I had known … I couldn’t believe I had hugged my friend for the last time.  At one point, months later, I followed a man out of a restaurant calling out to him, “David, David...” I could have sworn it was him. 
I visited with the families of my friends and watched them fight terribly to just simply survive the loss of their cherished sons. David’s mom came home from identifying her son and grabbed onto us. “I should be paying for a wedding, not a funeral.”  Her words still echo in my head and the look on her face, defeated and broken, still gives me chills.
I have been both blessed to keep David’s parents close to me over the years and heartbroken to watch their continuing struggle to find their place in the world as part of the “club” of parents who have lost their children. Our friends, including myself, still struggle daily to survive the loss.
Three and a half years after that fateful day, we stood in a courtroom and watched as the drunk driver was convicted of two counts of intoxicated manslaughter. He was sentenced to prison and taken away in handcuffs. 
His family cried, screamed; it was heart wrenching to watch their pain. I knew that his life would never be the way that it was before and my heart hurt for him. His dreams had been lost in the second my friends died. His one decision had changed everything, for everyone. I couldn’t believe it had come to this for him. He was a man I had loved, planned to marry…the drunk driver was my boyfriend.

Jessi Scott is the Regional Director of the Victim’s Impact Panel of Oklahoma

12 comments:

  1. Anonymous9/17/2014

    While I have not personally experienced the loss Jessi Scott describes here, after hearing her story it led me to look at the MADD organization website and the work they do to reduce drinking and driving and the heartbreaking results that often come from this reckless behavior... http://www.madd.org/

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    1. Jessi Scott9/17/2014

      I'm glad you were able to find some information to share! Please feel free to check out our website www.vipofok.com. This is the non-profit organization that I work for and talked about in my story. Thank you for your comment.
      Jessi Scott

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  2. Anonymous9/17/2014

    Heartbreaking! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Jessi Scott9/17/2014

      Thank you for taking your time to comment. I appreciate the opportunity to spread the word about the dangers of driving under the influence with everyone.

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  3. Anonymous9/17/2014

    This was such an incredibly eye-opening story. I'm sorry you went through this, so tragic.

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    1. Jessi Scott9/29/2014

      Thank you very much!

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  4. Anonymous9/17/2014

    I have lived this ... except it was my brother who chose to drink and drive; and he lost his life. Thankfully the two people with him survived. It is a horrible event to live through and still today, almost 14 years later, it brings me to tears. I dream about him and I hear him talking to me. I miss him so much and am reminded that he is gone every time there is a significant event in our family ... graduation, birth of a child, weddings .... he is supposed to be here! Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. Jessi Scott9/18/2014

      I'm so very sorry for your loss!

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  5. Terry Webb Fire Fighter A-EMT Dodge City Ks9/17/2014

    Jessi, Thanks for opening up on such a hard hard subject. Being in the Fire service for many years I have witnessed first hand the devastation your are speaking of here. I truly was and am sad to read of your losses especially like this.

    Everyone who looks can see the toll it takes on the family and friends of those involved. We can only hope these hard lessons can help others to learn and change their ways of thinking.

    As a long time Fire Fighter and EMT I can say first hand, even when we don't know those involved the scars are still etched into us as well.

    Again I'm very sorry for your losses and thanks again for taking the time to post.

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    1. Jessi Scott9/18/2014

      Terry, thank you for what you do! We work with many first responders as volunteer speakers and I know that you truly do carry home each of the wrecks you work.

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  6. Wow... what a well-written blog and so impactful! I am so very sorry for the losses you experienced. I am also happy you chose to channel those feelings into helping others. We always think 'not me.' But what we fail to realize other people have thought that before and it ended up being them. One poor choice can have serious consequences. I hope others read this and decide to always choose wisely.

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  7. Jessi Scott9/29/2014

    Jeri, thank you for your kind words! I hope for the same things you do. It helps me to share this story knowing that someone, somewhere may choose differently than they would have before.

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