March 6th, Remembering Karen Candlelight Vigil

March 6th, 2008:

I joined the Crusade Against Impaired Driving's "Remembering Karen" Candlelight Vigil On the 10th anniversary of Karen Kwiatkowski's death.

Family, friends, classmates, and many others gathered at St. John the Evangilist Church on Seneca Street Thursday, March 6th at 7:00 pm for a candlelight vigil in Karen's honor. Karen was killed on Seneca Street, right outside the doors of that church. It was a night to celebrate Karen's life, keep her memory alive and promote awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.

It has taken me 11 days to try and find the words to write in this blog but still I am short on words to describe this experience.

As a spokesperson for Safe Driver Awareness, I usually have a press conference per month, commercials, talk shows and radio shows in which I am speaking on this needless epidemic that faces our country on a daily basis, yet I was NOT prepared for what I was about to experience.

When I arrived I walked into St. John Evangilist Church in which I joined about 200 people to remember this young, vibrant life which ended so abrubtly.

Deanna Russo is Karens sister and the founder of Crusaide Against Imparied Driving. I looked at her and could feel her radiate passion for her organization and the prevention of this tragedy in the lives of other sisters, brothers, mother, fathers etc.

She got up to the podium, began to speak and I lost it. She spoke of her sister, her parents and the effect this tragedy has had on their family.

It was my turn to speak and I was literally lost for words. I've never been lost for words and there I stood, in front of about 200 people, lost. I say this because, I was ALIVE! I wondered WHY? Why did this father lose his little girl? Why did God spare me my life? My father was able to hold me in his arms at the scene of our car crash, he got to watch me awake. Karen's parents had to get that dreaded phone call. They were not there to pull there little girl from the car or hold her in her last moments. I didn't feel worthy to stand there, in front of 200 people and speak of safe driving awareness. Karen was the same age as me. Why was my life spared and not hers? Why did her parents have to endure that pain?

God has a plan for me and filled me with a passion. That passion is to speak on behalf of crash victims. This is definitely of epidemic proportion and if it were a disease, we'd be beggining for a cure, the cure is simple, education! I thank the lord for this gift.

Did you know that drunk drivers cause:
More than 17,000 deaths annually
310 funerals each week
One death every 30 minutes
An injury every 2 minutes
1 of 3 drivers will be involved in a collision with an impaired driver
After 10 pm during the week, 1 out of every 10 drivers is impaired
On weekends, it’s 1 out of every 5!

Jacqueline Saburido was hit by a drunk driver in Austin, Texas.She was pinned inside the vehicle as it caught on fire, leaving her withsevere burns over 60 percent of her body. Her life was changed forever.
Warning! The images in the following story are horrifying. Children below the ages of 18 must ask their parents before continuing.
Jacqueline's Story: http://www.drumbum.com/lessons/jacqueline.htm