On a chilly January evening in Birmingham, Michigan, a Buick Skylark with five teenagers was struck head-on by a Ford Galaxy driven by a young man who had been drinking. Three of those teenagers and the driver of the Ford were killed. It was 1965.
What you might not expect is the persistence of that cold night's gruesome events more than 40 years later.
Many, many lives were interrupted that night. And their story is compellingly told in the 2009 book Henderson’s Light, by Columbus Dispatch writer Jack Torry.
"It's a wound that just never heals," says Paul Fleming, a friend of the victims. "I have no idea why this happened. There is no reason."
For Torry, there is a very clear reason: an intoxicated 22-year-old climbed behind the wheel of his car.
"The best thing I can tell people," he says, "is this is a totally preventable accident. This should never happen. Don't drink and drive."
Torry was 13 and also living in Birmingham at the time of the crash:
"They towed the two cars up to local gas stations, and you saw them there for the next week. There was a Buick Skylark that looked like it was about half of its size, and there was a Ford Galaxy convertible that looked like a V. Those memories just stuck with me."
Sadly, as the book unfolds, readers realize that those memories stuck even more fiercely to everyone touched by the crash.
Today, as we continue our campaign to end distracted driving and reduce all road fatalities, I can't help but wonder if those who refuse to listen to our safety message understand the scale of the hole a crash rips into a family, a circle of friends, an entire community.
Since that 1965 crash, Jack Torry estimates that half a million more people have been killed in drunk driving crashes. And that means a lieftime of loss for far too many families.
As National Teen Safe Driving Week continues, I urge everyone to get the message. Drunk driving kills. Distracted driving kills. Excessive speed kills. And seat belts save lives.
Please, let's stay safe. There are some lessons best not learned firsthand.