A quick look at a text to help her child was Fatal to another.
A mom trying to help her kid cost my grandpa his life. A moment to reach for a phone to read a text message and start to respond, took away future years of family memories.
The police report stated “I looked away for a minute, I was running late for work, I was sending a text to my daughter to tell her how to change a passcode on her phone when I saw a yellow blur.” That “blur” was my grandpa in his yellow reflective bus driving jacket hit while getting his mail on a rural road in LeSueur County. The driver is a mom who loves her kids like my parents love us. She didn’t mean to kill grandpa, but she did.
My grandpa Joe, won't be at my high school graduation next year, future college graduation, my wedding, and any other family gatherings that so many of us take for granted. I am only 1 of 9 grandchildren who will share the same heartache. This past summer he missed the birth of his first of many great-grandchildren.
On October 28th, 2015, it was a normal school day until around 8:30 a.m. I was called out of class and sent down to the principal’s office. When I walked in I saw a couple of policemen and my dad waiting for me. My dad was teary-eyed and emotional. Right then I knew something terrible had happened. I asked him “What’s going on?” The policemen said, “Your grandpa has been hit and killed this morning getting his paper.” I was shocked for a few seconds not being able to take in the news, and then I burst into tears. My brother had not found this out yet, so the Sheriff drove us over to the Middle School. Dad told my brother the news before anyone else found out and could tell him. It was a very emotional car ride; one that I will never forget it. We drove over to Grandpa’s farm and parked right behind the school bus that Grandpa drove every day. My mom came running towards the car, we all just fell into each other’s arms and cried. We had to wake up my grandma to tell her what happened. We were afraid she would look outside her window and see grandpa lying in the ditch across the street from their house. This is my memory of Wednesday, October 28th, 2015. We live next door, so I relive this memory every day.
It’s hard for me hearing others talk about how they surrounded their grandpa and how they watched their grandpa die peacefully. It’s very sad and I have sympathy for them. However, my grandpa died violently. His body laid in the ditch, not in our arms.
If grandpa were here today, I would thank him for everything he has done for me, and all the things he has taught me throughout my lifetime and thank him for all the memories we had made. Like the first time he saw me and held me in his arms when I was first born, fishing at the cabin, going on a cruise with the entire family in 2011 to celebrate his and Grandma’s 50th anniversary. Whenever we walked in the door of his house, grandpa would be sitting on the couch or making a meal, listening to his classic country music, or listening to Trojans sports on the radio.
One of my most special memories is of grandpa teaching me and my brother how to make sauerkraut. My last happy memory was of grandpa being with me on my confirmation day, just 2 weeks before he was killed. My grandpa was the most family-oriented person I have ever known, and would do everything he could to protect our family.
My grandpa’s death has impacted me greatly. Since the crash, I now sleep with a nightlight on and I struggle with separation anxiety, especially with my parents. I am so afraid something will happen to them when they leave. It was especially hard the first spring and summer. It’s hard not seeing Grandpa in his garden that he loved so much. Not seeing grandpa walking in the cornfields or getting the tractor’s ready. My grandpa will not be able to watch his grandkids compete in track, cross country, soccer, wrestling, dance competitions, swim meets and theatre. He won’t be able to see me on my graduation day and if I were blessed, watch me walk down the aisle on my wedding day. We don't know how long he would´ve lived, but the driver made that decision by ending his life that day, simply by taking time to text her child, not watch the road.
As a new licensed driver, I have learned a lot. The day before I took my license test, it was very emotional for me. I was taking a big step in my life. The day I got my license, I made a promise not to ever text and drive. I’m not only doing this only for myself, not only to possibly save other’s lives, but I am doing this in memory of my grandpa. I know he would be very proud of me.
It really hurts me when I hear of others killed because of texting/ distracted driving, because I know how their family feels. Millions of people text, snapchat, tweet, Facebook, check emails, message etc. every day while they are driving. This is normal for my generation to have phones in their hands most of the time and it will only get worse. They know exactly what they are doing. They know it’s against the law, but they do it anyway. Why would they stop texting if the penalty isn’t stiff and there isn’t a Hands Free Law?” If I knew that the punishment would be extremely harsh, I wouldn’t dare touch my phone. How many CRASHES, deaths will it take until we take this crime seriously and stop multi-tasking.
Three months after grandpa was killed, I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I understand, it is no one's fault, it could not have been prevented. Things happen like that in life. When grandpa was killed, that COULD have been prevented. Texting is NOT an accident, it is a CHOICE. Kids my age are attached to their phones, myself included, but I would never text while operating a vehicle, because driving is your responsibility, not texting. We have to realize that we live in a society that is technology oriented, we NEED to get the phones out of our hands!!
I hope I live long enough to see a change in texting laws and hope to see people who text and drive held accountable and given the maximum punishment, to prevent others from making the same deadly choice.
Sylvie Tikalsky, age 17