Many people remember February 14, 2018 as the day of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, but in my school it is the day that a good friend of mine was hit by a 2007 Ford Sedan driven by a twenty-three year old. My friend lived only a few blocks from the school and was walking home after an SAT preparatory class when he was struck by the reckless driver. The next day in school, around fourth period, while grieving the loss of the lives in Parkland, as many of us knew some of the victims, we also heard the tragic news confirming an event that we all hoped to be strange rumors. Our friend had gone through the front windshield of a car that was speeding over 60 miles per hour, twice the legal speed limit in a school and residential area.
I will never forget how silent the hallways of my school were the rest of that day; the cliche, “you could hear a pin drop” never felt so real. Watching my math teacher walk out of the classroom after seeing the empty seat in the middle of the room, where her student should have been, to go cry for at least the second time that day is forever imbedded in my mind. No one knew what to say or do as we were all in utter disbelief as to how something so horrible could happen to one of the most genuine and funny people in the world. As we all could no longer just dwell in our feelings of anger and sadness for what had happened, my grade created a GoFundMe page and raised over eight thousand dollars to help the victim and his family.
The accident left me shocked and beyond frustrated. How could someone be so irresponsible and erratic? How could they continue to live with themself knowing they nearly took someone else’s life; someone who had so much love and compassion for others? As I had just turned seventeen two months earlier and had my full drivers license I’m still unable to fathom how anyone could be driving so fast on roads within a neighborhood and school property. My dad always says, “you’re never going anywhere that is so important that you need to speed and get into an accident,” and truer words have never been spoken.
What happened to my friend was an unspeakable tragedy. At the time he was a junior and dreamed of going far away for college. Instead, now due to severe brain damage, he is starting at a community college. He will never have the chance to have what many Long Islanders consider the “full college experience.” Seeing my friend’s journey and knowing that I still have my entire life with my fullest potential ahead of me, makes me able to not care when my friends tell me I drive like a grandma. It reminds me that speed does not always lead to success and sometimes slow is the way to go.
*No names have been used to protect the privacy of all individuals involved.