The day that changed lives…
Monday, September 1st, 2008 was my first day of Radiography School. That summer I was accepted along with only 29 other students into Pima Medical Institutes Radiography program. The first week of the program was your typical introductory week of getting settled in and getting to know each other. That Friday, September 5th, the last day of introductory week we had a potluck and each student was asked to present a poster of our goals and where we wanted our lives to be in 5 years.
Very early that Friday morning, before heading to school, I went to the grocery store to purchase a chocolate cake for the potluck. At the potluck there was so much food and so many colorful posters scattered around the classroom. My poster had my goals of graduating from Radiology school, buying a house, meeting Mr. Right and getting married, having children and traveling. I had no idea that in less than 24 hours my life would be altered forever…
When the potluck ended, my cake was unopened so I decided I would take it and say hello to the ladies at the office I used to work in which was just down the street. I only stayed for a few minutes to say hello and dropped off the cake.
I then went to work at my regular job. On Fridays I only worked until 6:00pm. After work I headed home to get changed and freshen up, I was going to a concert with friends that night! I arrived at the concert venue and met with my friends. The concert was sold out, and I was the only one with a ticket but did not want to go alone, I sold my ticket and we decided to go out for Sushi.
We were finally seated for dinner around 8:30, we had a drink while waiting for a table at the restaurant, and I had a drink with dinner. We sat and chatted for a couple of hours, and at around 10:30 a co-worker called and wanted us to meet at a different restaurant. There was a guy who was with us who does not drink so he drove us to our next meeting place. Once at the other establishment, a friend ordered me a beer. I took one drink of it but decided I would not drink it because I knew I would be driving later that evening.
Around 1:00am our friend drove me back to my vehicle at the Sushi restaurant. I got in my car and headed home. I had been awake for almost 18 hours and was definitely feeling it. Only minutes from reaching home my eyes started to get heavy and for an instant I closed them, taking my eyes off of the road. When I opened them I was approaching a truck right in front of me, I tried to steer around it but it was too late. Glass breaking, tires screeching, my voice screaming, then silence…
Is this a bad dream? It wasn’t... I was there, hanging upside down in my seat, the car had rolled. This was not a dream, this was real, I was alive but someone else was not.
All of the details are not important, but the message of it all is. I went out that evening and I drank and I got behind the wheel of my car and drove. Because of my actions, my careless decision to drink and drive, it cost someone else their life. Not only did it cost someone their life, it robbed someone’s family and friends of their loved one.
We are not invincible; we are not made of steel. If you think you are, you are mistaken. If you think you can drink and drive, don’t ever think that you can or that it is okay. If you DO drink and drive, YOU MIGHT AS WELL SIGN YOUR OWN DEATH CERTIFICATE OR PLEA AGREEMENT TO GO TO PRISON!
I did not physically die on September 6, 2008 but I felt like I did. Due to my actions I faced severe repercussions, not only criminally, but even worse I faced the repercussions emotionally. The mental anguish alone was and always will be a huge obstacle.
Here I am 2 ½ years later, writing this from my prison cell, an 8 by 12 room that I will spend the next 5.8 years in. I was charged with vehicular manslaughter - a class 2 Felony - to which I received a 7 year prison sentence. Not only did I receive a 7 year sentence, but I sentenced myself to a lifetime of grief.
I am not asking you, I am begging you; please do not make the same mistake I made. Please spread the message to everyone you know. DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. EVER.
If everyone will help me to spread this message, then what I am in here for will not go for waste.
Please ask yourself the next time you want to order a drink and you are the driver, is it really worth it?
Our mission is to make people aware of the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving and to help other families who have loved ones that are incarcerated or facing incarceration.
After visiting my daughter Jessica in county jail and hearing of her and other inmates experiences, I felt compelled to help in the very limited capacity I knew was available to me. I knew that an inmate could receive money for their account as well as letters and books if they were sent through an approved vendor. Our daughter was fortunate enough to receive books through the mail. Books became extremely important to Jessica. The knowledge, comfort, and support she received through reading began to help her through her ordeal. I couldn't imagine what it would be like for her if she didn't have access to books.
One day in county jail the "library cart" arrived in her block, much to the excitement of her and the other women there. Jessica looked to see if there were any books that interested her, but found that since her bunk was called late, that there were only 3 books left to choose from as well as a hand full of outdated magazines. The magazine she chose happened to be from 1997 and was in terrible shape. This story inspired me to help by checking my home, as well as asking my friends whom are avid readers, to donate books to the county jail. Once the word got out, the books started flowing in. Our first donation to county jail was approximately 400 books and 100 magazines.
I decided that once Jessica was transferred to state prison that I would continue donating books as long as there was the need to do so. I called the Perryville Women's Correctional Facility and just happened to be connected to the right person who informed me that there was such a need. I decided to officially call the project Jessica's Operation Orange. To-date Jessica's Operation Orange, working in conjunction with Jewels for Jessica, has helped the literacy program at Perryville Women's Correctional Facility and other Arizona Correctionl Faciliteis by donating a combined total of over 7000 + books and magazines.
Thank you to everyone that continues to support this project! We are making a difference.