"We like to go fast," Whitcomb said. "His was the fastest one of our vehicles. He loved showing off. We all did. ... No more going fast."----------------------------------------
Stop right here, kids. I want to help, but to do so, I'm going to say some harsh things. (People who care tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.) If you knew Koval or (as I did) Ashleigh, if you are grieving and upset, you might want to stop here. Close this page, come back in a week, or a month, or a year, whenever you're ready. If you're ready, then read on...
Kids, listen up. I know you get tired of hearing me play the scold, but your lives are at stake. The media may pump your heads full of images of speed and daring (not to mention thrill-a-minute parties revolving around booze and sex). You're told that following the rules and being careful is for losers, that if you're not "living on the edge," you're not living.
Two kids were living on the edge last night. Now they're not living.
I'm particularly worked up about these deaths because something very similar happened in Montrose last year. After the death in Montrose, kids went around calling the 15-year-old driver a hero, talking about how great it was that he lived on the edge, and praising him as a great friend. Will the same talk be going around Washington High School about the young man who died last night? Let's hope not. Here's why:
- ***A hero doesn't senselessly risk the lives of other people for his own thrills. Koval killed a girl and almost killed a dad and his three-year-old little girl. He could have killed who knows how many other motorists who were out minding their own business on Sycamore at 9 p.m. Had he lived, Koval likely would have been charged with manslaughter or vehicular homicide. There is no heroism in driving like a madman.
- ***A great friend doesn't think only about himself. Koval didn't think about anyone but himself. The people who survived the accident will have hospital bills and terrible traumatic memories. The people who saw the accident will be similarly traumatized. The families of Koval and the girl he killed will grieve. Washington High School will be a mess next week, with kids and teachers struggling to cope with a loss they shouldn't have to face. One selfish, thoughtless act causes all this pain -- no thoughtful friend would do that.
Kids, as you struggle to make sense of what happened, you may feel an urge to turn this accident into some glorious myth. It happened in Montrose, and it may happen now. You want to believe that these deaths meant something, that some good can come out of the accident. You'll want to avoid speaking ill of the dead, so you'll try to turn your blame elsewhere (maybe even against me for saying such harsh things).
But if any good can come of this crash, it lies in seeing it for what it really is: a senseless loss of two young people filled with potential, the near loss of other precious lives, and a terrible amount of grief and pain, caused by one act of thoughtless selfishness.
Recognize that ugly truth. Recognize that a moment's carelessness can impact so many lives beyond your own. That may be hard to swallow now, and I understand if you reject that message now. But that message, if we share it, if we really learn from it, is exactly the message that can keep other kids from dying.
Will saying these things stop every senseless death? Of course not. Teenagers will always want to push the limits. But after the death in Montrose last year, some kids (and some of us old folks) thought about what happened every time they got into a car, and they wore their seat belts more often.
Stories like this are terrible. The people involved in last night's incident at 34th and Sycamore likely will wish they could forget the details completely. But if we tell these stories, if we tell the central message that tomorrow is too precious -- that life is too precious -- to throw away for one night of showing off in a cool car, we might save lives. And if out of the millions of you kids out there, just one of you thinks about the story and slows down or stays home and saves just one life, then the sad telling is worth it.
But if my long arguments don't stick with you, at least remember what Koval's friend Whitcomb said:
No more going fast.
Life's too short to go fast. Be careful. Please.
p.s.: I wrote about the Montrose incident on these pages last November, and wanted to say more, hoping that parents and kids alike would look at what really happened, look at the senseless loss of life, and just be careful. However, a complaint was filed with the school district (over a blog article that I wrote on my own time, on my own computer), and while the complaint process went on, I voluntarily removed the article and withheld further public comment.
What happened there is another story. The point here is that not telling stories leaves people ignorant. Ignoring what really happened means more kids might die.
If I had told Ashleigh the Montrose story, would she have gotten in that car with Koval?
Those of you interested in reading the story I posted last November, contact me (see comment page for private e-mail address), and I'll send you a copy so you can share the message with others and try saving some lives.
*Argus earlier reported the name of the driver as Troma.