I will never forget August 9, 2015.
I won’t ever forget the way my mom sounded on the phone, telling me to have my husband drive me to my aunt and uncle’s house. I won’t ever forget walking up to the house and being greeted by my brother, with tears in his eyes and a hug.
“What’s going on,” I asked, but he just shook his head and backed away.
I won’t ever forget the look on my cousin’s face as she walked toward me, sobbing. I won’t forget how hot it was when she hugged me while I pleaded with someone to tell me what was happening.
My aunt and uncle had been killed while riding their motorcycle on a beautiful day. A man who had smoked marijuana a few hours before he drove fell asleep at the wheel, causing him to cross over the centerline and hit my aunt and uncle head on.
They were pronounced dead at the scene.
That day turned my family upside down. My aunt and uncle were truly the glue that held us all together. Christmas, Easter, Halloween and so many other holidays were celebrated at their house. They were parents, grandparents, siblings and children to us all.
It’s been well over a year since the accident took place but some days it’s like it just happened yesterday. The other day while I was working at my newspaper in Pennsylvania, I was keeping an eye on the 911 online scanner when an alert flashed across the screen:
A motorcycle crash with several bikes involved.
Suddenly I wasn’t at my office, sipping my coffee and writing. I was back in my aunt and uncle’s yard, holding my cousin while she cried over the death of her mother and stepfather.
Everyone in that accident was fine, thankfully. But I know New York has had beautiful weather like we have had in Pennsylvania this week. This means motorcycles will be out on the road, and it means accidents will increase. My very public plea to everyone is to be mindful of the motorcycle riders out there.
The man who killed my aunt and uncle was under the influence of a substance that can make you sleepier or more relaxed. He thought he was fine to drive. I also know other people do this often, because I have friends who do. I’ve seen friends have a few drinks or get a little high before driving, assuming it will all be fine. I’m here to tell you that if something happens and you hit someone, it will not be fine. Please refrain from driving if you are smoking or drinking. Call me instead, I will come pick you up. Call another friend. Call a cab. Call anyone.
I also know friends who aren’t as mindful of motorcycles as they should be. I talked with Bryan Wilson, who was a friend of my aunt and uncle and is an avid motorcycle owner about what advice he would give to drivers about motorcycles. He said, If you’re in a car, always look several times before pulling out. Motorcycles are smaller and more difficult to see, so specifically look for them while driving. Maintain a safe distance from them if you have to be behind one. If you have kids, have them play the punch bug game but with motorcycles. Train them to keep their eyes peeled, and they’ll help you with it too.
And if you ride a motorcycle, please do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Wear leather; it’s good protection in the case of an accident. Also wear bright colors to make yourself more visible to cars. Overall, be wary that drivers may not be looking for you; it’s best err on the side of caution.
I know some of these things seem obvious, but please keep them in mind each and every time you get into a car. If someone had been paying attention, if they had seen all their surroundings and if they had been sober, my aunt and uncle would be with us still today.
I will never forget August 9, 2015. I hope you never forget it either.