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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Silent Sigh

Nothing can freak a mom out as much as a phone call moments after curfew from their teenager who's crying so hard, you can't make out the words he is saying.

I got that call Friday night from my son, Lane 1. Of course my heart sank and mind raced with the many horrible possibilities, as I pressed the phone harder to my ear, trying to understand what he was saying. Lane 1 never cries, so I, expected the worst.

It's hard to believe the kid who was goofing around and planning this outfit for the dance, could be so incredibly sad less then 24 hours after these photos were taken.

He was oozing in confidence and was probably way too secure in himself for his own good. I told him it was bordering on porn and he needed to end his striptease there.

Later, it was the worst, but luckily for us, what we were dealing with was a piece of cake in comparison.

He came out of the Valentine's Dance at school to find someone had ran into his car and drove off. We've lived in this town for two years. This is the second hit-and-run we've experienced. I won't go off on that tangent right now.

Mr. Lane and I went to the school to see the impact was so hard, his car was sideways in its parking spot, and his bumper was 70 feet away. It looked like someone took a can opener the entire back end. Totaled with only liability insurance. Thank God he wasn't in the damn car. Thankfully, none of the kids were hurt. The accident happened minutes before the dance let out. It could have been so much worse.

Lane 1's friends rushed over to ask what happened. Many offered to go looking for what appeared to be a black car with pinstripes based on the hunks of fiberglass laying on the ground. Even with a posse of renegades ready to have his back, Lane 1 hugged me and sobbed into my shoulder as we stood there.

Do you remember when someone stole his bike? Magnify that by a million. It's one thing for a 13-year-old to have his bike stolen, and a whole different animal to see an almost man of 16 years, lose his first car at the hands of someone's recklessness.

Remember how happy he was three short months ago, when he got the car?

He worked all summer saving his money and became the leader of The Beater Brothers with his 1985 Dodge Omni. As happy as he was that day, he was equally devastated.

The officer arrived and barely got Lane 1's name written down and he was getting another call. "There's a car on fire. I have to go. Stay here and I'll be back as soon as I can."

I looked at my old man and said, "You know that's the person who did this right?"

He said, "I bet it is."

Lane 1 said, "Let's go."

We drove up to see a giant ball of flames that reached the top of the two-story house it was next to.

They stayed in the car. I walked up. As the flames lessened, I could see what looked like a black car with white pinstripes along the sides that matched the debris we'd seen at the high school.

In my mind, while watching rescue workers rush around, I thought, prayed or hoped it was someone who'd gone for a joyride and decided to burn the evidence. The longer it took them to extinguish the flames, the bigger that pit became in my stomach.

A firefighter walked up to the driver's side and said, "Call the coroner. We have occupants."

I walked away.

It's strange how emotions can shift so quickly, going from anger to sadness in seconds. We headed back home and called the police station. "Just have the officer come to the house when he is done."

We sat there until 1:30 a.m., talking and thinking about who that may have been. Lane 2 had a friend over spending the night. She started to cry. "Most of my friends' parents drive drunk with them in the car."

I tried to console her as I tried to wrap my head around what she just said. Do people really not know better or are they just that stupid?

The officer called and asked us to meet him back at the school. "Because there was a fatality involved, we have to impound your son's vehicle."

I woke Mr. Lane up and told him I was going to meet the officer again. He stumbled out of bed and came with. We'd been up since 4 am, and were completely spent. We helped pick debris off the road, as we dug for information. The officer was tight lipped but another investigator, offered up a scenario.

After hitting Lane 1's car, the man drove off in hurry. He was so drunk or out of it, he missed his turn home. He tried to make a U-turn, but his car landed on a slushy, muddy, grassy shoulder and got stuck. Because he had so much damage to his driver's side, he couldn't get out of the car, and because he was over 400 pounds, he was unable to crawl through the passenger side. He kept spinning his tires trying to get out of the mud, and something in his engine sparked. His car was fully engulfed in flames.

I can't and don't want to even imagine. I don't care how drunk you are, if your body is on fire, you're going to sober up really quick. Horrifying to think about.

They asked us to convoy to the impound lot. We saw the flatbed that held the other vehicle. They couldn't remove the man at the scene, so they placed a tarp over the car. All things you don't want your child to see, feel or experience.

By then, we'd heard who the man was, and that only made the situation worse. I used to take care of his mom at the nursing home. He used to help support our teen center. His mom and son were the only family he had, and unfortunately, his 20-year-old son is wheelchair bound.

This man chose to take off after hitting the car. If he was drunk, he chose to drink and drive. People just don't consider the ramifications for their actions. He lost his life over a $400 car and a possible DUI ticket. Such an incredible waste.

As horrible as it all is, I hope this will serve as a lesson to my son and his friends. I hope they will understand if they make a mistake, they can own up to it rather than make a situation worse by running away. I hope seeing the impact of drinking and driving up close leaves a huge impression in their young minds.