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 naïve 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