I've never before passed along a reader's letter verbatim. But I think it's time for an exception, after reading the following e-mail dated May 14 from a reader moved by a drunken-driving wreck May 5 at Farm Road and Tenaya Way that killed five people.
Ronald Jayne Jr. faces eight counts of driving under the influence involving a death or substantial bodily harm in connection with the crash.
Please take a couple of minutes to read it (I've made some minor changes for grammar, punctuation, brevity and accuracy, but that's about it). Then let it sink in and try to remember the message.
And please be safe this holiday weekend and every day after that:
I have never written to anyone at the Review-Journal but I just had to respond to your article of May 13, 2007. Since the tragedy of last week, I have not been able to get the accident and the response of Mr. Jayne's friends out of my mind. I write to you in hopes that putting this down on paper and sharing it with someone will help someone see the real tragedy and also help me get rid of some of the demons that haunt me to this day.
Thirty-nine years ago this coming July, my mother, my brother (who turned 3 years old two days before) and my little sister (she was killed on her first birthday) all met their end at the hands of a drunken driver. A younger brother and I were the only survivors from our family. In all, over 15 people were killed when two buses collided head-on, on a dark desert highway in Northern Mexico.
I had just turned eight and I relive that horror all the time. I remember everything like it was yesterday, how I wish I could forget the screams of the people, the smell of gasoline mixed with blood, the emergency lights flashing in my eyes as I awakened to the scene right out of a horror movie. As I came to, the screams were piercing, the pain in the voices, the cries for help, I didn't know what to do. I suddenly remembered where I was and the first thing I did was start calling out for my mother, but I would never hear her voice again. I would never feel her safe and warm embrace again. Where she was supposed to be, there was only a hole. Only her right arm remained. Twisted metal and luggage were all I could see. I tried in vain to lift them hoping my mother was underneath all that, but I could not. I held her hand and that was all I could do. She was gone. My little brother and sister were no more. I never saw their bodies again. I knew then and there amidst the screams stabbing at my head they were gone forever.
My thoughts turned to my brother Mario who had been sitting next to me. I turned and again nothing was there. I started calling out his name, hoping against all odds that he was still there able to hear me above the screams that were growing louder as more people came awake to our nightmare. I started to pick people up who lay in front of me, looking for my brother. I picked up a little boy about two who was crying for his mom. She lay in a heap twisted, dead. I picked up a lady who was trying to get up, and she was cut all across her face. I saw emergency people on the outside yelling at me to come towards them and jump out. I gave them the lady, the little boy, and continued my search for my brother. I told them I could not leave without my brother and turned back into hell to look for him. I picked up some more kids smaller than me and handed them to the EMTs. I kept calling out his name and as I got close to the front, I found him and I picked him up.
I shook him and he came to; as he wiped his forehead, suddenly his face was covered in a blanket of blood, a piece of glass stuck in his head. People started screaming that the bus was on fire towards the back. I helped my brother to a hole and an EMT was there. I handed my brother to him and turned to look at my mom one last time. Then I jumped. I had lost my shoes and landed on some glass which resulted in getting both of my feet cut pretty bad. We were rushed to an ambulance and on to a hospital, miles away in the nearest town.
All in all, they told me later at the hospital that I had saved seven or eight people who surely would have died had I not gotten them out. They were calling me a hero but I had no idea what that meant. All I knew was that my mother was not there with me. I was not able to be her hero. Or my brother's or sister's.
Turns out that the driver was stinking drunk. I did see him as I jumped out. He was decapitated by the windshield. Lucky guy. He was not going to be around to pay his price. But, unluckily for me I have been paying HIS price ALL of my life. Every time I see an accident, I flash back. Any kind of emergency lights make my heart race. I get a little nervous. To this day the thought of getting on a bus makes me shake.
And now this horror is brought back to life by the recent events on Farm and Tenaya. When I see that his friends have the colossal arrogance to TRY and defend his indefensible actions I want to throw up. Yes, he threw his life away but HE threw it away. It wasn't taken away from him like my mother's life or all those people who have lost their lives to drunken drivers.
Their arrogance is a sign of the times. We just don't think it's that bad to drive drunk, it's cool. Well, it's not. People won't change until we as a society change. In my book, there is no such charge as DUI with a death, it's just plain MURDER. Making it anything else is proving that we still think it's OK. The irony of it is that Mr. Jayne serves in the National Guard in a TRANSPORTATION UNIT.
Mr. Jayne will see his 20th and 30th birthdays, hopefully behind bars. Too bad my brother never did, or my sister, or all those people who lost their lives that night, a long time ago. My heart goes out to all the victims of drunken driving. It will forever change their lives. My daughter never got to meet her grandmother, her uncle, her aunt. She lives with my pain as well. Please, people, think before you drive. Your actions will affect people for generations to come. Thank you for letting me tell my story.