I met Jacqueline by accident. We’ve never met in person, yet the connection I have with her is not easy to explain. Always fearful of the effects of drinking and driving, always saddened by the many stories I’ve heard through the years – stories where people didn’t quite know how they made it home, or remember being stupid at a party, only to laugh about it later. They were the lucky ones, the people who never got caught and far too often continue in their reckless and irresponsible behaviors.
Jacqui paid a high price because Reggie, the drunk driver who hit her that fateful night, got caught. He was only 18, a senior in high school, a football player. She was a college student in her early 20’s. Excuses like, “I don’t have to go that far,” and “I’m okay. I really haven’t had that much to drink,” didn’t work that ominous night in 1999; lives were changed, so many lives were changed forever, when Reggie swerved and hit the car Jacqui was riding in head-on.
Reggie caused the accident that changed Jacqui’s life and the lives of everyone she knew forever. He also changed the lives of his own family and all the people he knew. He’s a convicted felon now – intoxicated manslaughter. Reggie Stephey killed two people in the accident. More than that, he maimed a few others. Jacqui was burned over 60% of her body and will spend the rest of her life recovering.
Sadly, many others don’t. It’s all about choices. We make them all the time. Drinking in and of itself is not the culprit. Poor decision-making, selfishness and impaired judgment join the effects of too much alcohol, lending themselves to irreversible trouble that can change hundreds of lives in seconds.
This is the message so willingly shared by Jacqui and Reggie, a message they experienced personally that crucial night when two families were transformed in perpetuity. Not just families either. Friends, first responders, emergency crews, doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, talk show hosts, strangers – so many people touched by a story meant to change lives, a story destined to be told through the tragic events of one split second decision that carved a path of trial & tribulation, destiny & fate, courage & survival, to be played out on a world stage, in hopes that one life, one teenager, one drunk driver, one family member would never have to suffer this way again.
Thank you for visiting Effectively Human. I hope this message hits home with you and everyone you know. When I learned Jacqui’s story, it brought tears to my eyes. There’s a solemn lump in my chest as I share it with you. Drinking and driving is no laughing matter. Drinking irresponsibly has consequences, even if you don’t ever get behind the wheel. One way or another, we always get caught, even when we think no one ever finds out about it. Here’s wishing you safe and happy holidays, just a few of those times when drinking all too often gets out of hand.
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Photo credit: Thue, car crash, Copenhagen, Denmark, Public Domain