I am writing to tell you what happened to
Roland. Thank you for giving me time to come forward and tell you when I
was ready, and for not asking me very painful questions.
Roland was killed by teenage boys drag
racing on our street. It was around 1:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.
Roland was on our driveway, well off the road, attempting to record them
with his cell phone as they made a second pass down our street at speeds
over 100 miles an hour, driving on both sides of the road. This was at
least the fourth time these boys had come to our rural three mile road to
race, and the police had not taken any steps that we knew of to stop them.
Since many people walk their dogs, jog, bike, get their mail, and walk
down our road, it was only a matter of time until these boys killed
someone. I said exactly that to Roland weeks before. An email discussion
on our neighborhood email list regularly discussed what to do about them.
Recording them was suggested as a way to give the police means to stop
I was eating lunch in our home when it
happened; I was not able to coordinate my day to match with Roland’s
lunch time, as I usually did. We ate all our meals together most days, as
we both worked from home. I heard and then turned to see the accident, and
ran outside thinking the driver of the car would be badly hurt and need
I am not ready to go into the details of
the next part. I relive many times a day the scenes of that day, and the
realization that the body is not a driver or passenger, but Roland, the
love of my life, and that he is gone and there is nothing I can do about
it. He was killed instantly, and I knew he was dead before I even knew it
was Roland who died. The two drivers and their two passengers all walked
out with no injuries at all.
I am writing this because yesterday the
second driver pleaded guilty to manslaughter two. Both drivers have
pleaded guilty, and there will be no trial. They will be sentenced to 6
1/2 years in prison, and will serve every day as the law requires. They
will live out the rest of their lives as convicted felons.
There is no relief in this. There is no
justice. There is only sadness and pain, and continual loss, every day,
hundreds of times a day. What happens to them now changes nothing for me.
They killed the one person in the world I was the most afraid to lose, and
having them no longer racing down my road or anyone else’s is very
I am surviving because I have no choice. I
am not strong, as many suggest, I am forced to live this version of hell.
I am trying to find joy in small things, and not lose myself completely in
grief. Roland would not have wanted me to disappear from this earth on the
same day he did. But I will never be the same, and I will remember the
five years we spent together as a dream, a too short break in the hardness
of the world, and be grateful I got to spend time with someone who loved
me so much, and who was an exceptional human being.
If anything could come from this tragedy,
if anything could be learned, it would be this. One, if you have a teenage
boy, or know one, or have influence over one, please tell them this story.
Tell them that the few seconds of rush from driving fast is not worth the
devastation of the death they could cause, and their years in prison
followed by living the life of a convicted felon. Tell them that their
actions have consequences, and accidents don’t just happen to
“other” people. Don’t buy them fast cars, and if they exhibit
dangerous driving behavior, take their keys away immediately, or report
them to the police. Don’t just shake your head and say “boys will be
boys” or “you don’t understand, you aren’t a parent”. They can
kill someone. They can destroy lives; the victims, their families,
themselves, and their families.
And the other lesson is to all of those
like Roland and I who felt like their love was enough, and marriage and
other legal commitments weren’t important, please know that they are.
The law does not protect the loved one you leave behind, no matter how
much you loved them, no matter how much others knew you and could see what
your love was to each other.
My heart is heavy for the families and
friends in France who are now living my same loss, and yet there is little
space in it for more sadness. More young men destroying lives. We should
spend more time teaching our boys compassion and empathy, and less time
shouting about their rights to guns; just another means of death and
Please tell your loved ones how you feel,
make those legal decisions you’ve been putting off, talk meaningfully to
your boys and men, and hopefully there will be less grief in the world.