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Volume 15, Issue 47 ~ November 22 - November 28, 2007


What Do We Do When Our Hearts Are Broken?

Steps to saving our children’s lives

by Albert ‘Abby’ Ybarra

My daughter Marina was involved in an event mourned by our community.

On. Nov. 5, four Calvert families’ hearts dropped at the call every parent dreads. Their children had been in a wreck on their way to Calvert County’s Northern High School early that morning.

The driver, 17-year-old Alyson Purvis, died in the accident. Her brother Ryan, 14, died four days later. Kathryn Singleton, 17, is still recovering from her injuries. My 16-year-old daughter is home and getting better by the day physically, though emotionally she has a long way to go.

We have had long days of searching for the right way to feel, and when I look at my daughter I can’t help but cry when I think about her friends Aly and Ryan, whom she misses terribly. It’s like we are viewing life with a split screen. On one hand, we are thankful for our daughter’s life; on the other, as parents, we can’t imagine the pain of the Purvis family or the Singletons.

First, my heartfelt thanks to all who have shared concerns, love, prayers and affection.

The next step to healing is making sense out of this tragedy and hoping that the gathering of the community over this loss will build something positive.

Earning the drivers license is a passage. We’ve paid for driving lessons. They’ve had their practice hours behind the wheel. They’ve also heard us remind them of the do’s and don’ts of driving. So when that proud moment arrives, we overlook the high cost of teen insurance. We pass on this new responsibility to our children, and we hope they’re ready for it.

But maybe there are areas we overlook. Let’s look again.

Calvert County roads are no longer those country bi-ways where you could marvel at tobacco plants and corn growing. New major home developments mean more cars and more people who have to get inside the Beltway faster than ever to beat the traffic. It’s happened quickly. Maybe our driving hasn’t yet caught up with the changes.

Maybe the kids are actually learning how to drive from us. Over the speed limit? Yes. Unsafe lane changes on the right shoulder? Okay — but I was in a hurry.

We have all been on the wrong side of good driving habits for years, but we can change those habits. I know, because over the past year, I’ve tried to rethink my own driving. I was stopped by a county sheriff for driving too fast on Route 260. Yep, I was in a hurry to make it to church; isn’t that a good excuse? The officer gave me a warning to slow down, and I have.

It’s been tough to keep my vehicle to the posted limit, but I am. Maybe I leave earlier or give way to save a little space between cars in case the other guy messes up. I explain my mistakes when I’m driving with the kids, and I point out unsafe driving habits in others.

Can we slow down? I sure hope so. Because without lowering speed, we will be witness to many more accidents during the school and work rush hour. We’ll see more broken hearts — maybe our own.

An even bigger battle is taking on the Maryland State Highway Administration, which seems to have a rule for how many people have to die in an intersection before a light goes up.

We make decisions by engineering and science, not emotions, the top highway administrator said about erecting a light at Briscoes Turn Road. Hearing that from the state assures me that our safer highway needs will remain unmet unless we ourselves act to protect our young drivers and our community.

Thousands of people have signed a petition to put up traffic lights, but is that going to get us past civil servants who have their own “scientific” agenda for making us all safer?

Unless we stay strong and demand that our roads become safe places to drive — while we change the way we all use the roads — we will be wondering how to fill that void where the young heart we loved used to be.

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