The crime doesn't change, the victims do

Heather Bryant/Editor-in-Chief
April 10, 2012

Early Saturday morning, two people were killed and another two were injured by a person police suspect was driving drunk at the time.

The driver has a criminal history, including assault. He has a case pending against him in which  he is accused of pointing a weapon at another person. He was out on bail at the time of Saturday’s collision.

The thing about drunk driving is that it’s something that tends to be a repeat offense.

A couple years ago, when I was interviewing participants of the Fairbanks Wellness Court, many people there told me that they drove drunk hundreds of times — they just happened to get caught three times.

My mother taught me to drive. I was young, not even a teenager yet. We would go to town together and if we went to a friend’s house, she usually drank. If she was too drunk to drive, I sat on her lap. She worked the pedals of the old truck and I steered for her. We took the gravel roads home.

I wrote about my mom in a previous editorial. She died of liver cancer when she was in her 40s. It was Easter Sunday, seven years ago.

What I didn’t write was that when she died, she was two years into an eight-year sentence for a felony DUI conviction.

I remember the last time she was taken away. I was 16 and I had just gotten home from school. A sheriff’s car pulled into the driveway. I went outside to see what was going on.

He must have been new, because by that point I think every deputy in the county had arrested my mom. He called me by her name. I told him she was my mom. He said he needed to see my identification.

He stayed in the yard while I went to my room and got my driver’s license. My mom was hiding in my closet. She sat on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest. She was crying. She asked me not to tell them where she was.

When I went back outside and gave the deputy my ID, he asked if I knew where she was.

I said I didn’t know, I had just gotten home from school. He said I was going to be in trouble for hiding her. He kept repeating it. He asked me if it was possible she was in the house.

I said it was possible.

I will never forget the way she looked at me when he put her in the back seat of his car.

I’m still not sure who I’m angry at the most: her for putting me in that situation, or myself for telling that deputy she was in there.

My mom never killed anyone while driving drunk, but she came close to killing herself and me many times. If I’m completely honest, it was only a matter of time before someone else got hurt. Alcoholism is a serious problem. I don’t know if there was ever a way out for her.

There is already an abundance of comments on the news stories about the accident — condemnation for the drunk driver, prayers and sorrow over the two men who lost their lives and for the two passengers who were injured. In the coming weeks there will be much more commentary about this horrible event.

I don’t have any advice for how to fix the problem of drunk driving that hasn’t been heard before. To the family and friends of those who were killed and injured, all I can say is that I am sorry this happened to you. There are no words that will make this easier for you.

For the family of the drunk driver, I am sorry for what you are going to go through. You probably tried to get him help. You probably tried to fix him. But you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

It’s likely that somewhere inside you knew that someday something bad was going to happen.

For everyone involved, I’m sorry that day has come.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Another very personal, thought-provoking editorial by a Sun Star editor who’s already contributed hugely toward the betterment of fellow UAF students and the greater campus community.
    Overcoming hardships and strife helped instill the resilience and wisdom evident in today’s editorial. We can only admire how far you’ve come, Heather, and look forward to what you’ll achieve moving forward in your career.
    — One of Ms. Bryant’s proud former professors

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *