Death diminishes and challenges us all, no matter what the circumstances.
As we observe the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, memorial services are held in communities of all sizes across our country. Even some NFL players wear specially designed gear in support of families who experienced the loss of a loved one on that day, or in the ensuing conflicts that have been fought in Afghanistan, and Iraq. Thousands have died, and whether each of us personally new these victims, we along with their families are diminished due to the loss of the love and service they would have continued to share with family, friends, and others in need throughout our world.
I am reminded, too, that over 350,000 loved ones have died during the past 10 years on our nations roadways. Their family and friends also grieve the loss of love, friendship, and service that their children, siblings, parents, cousins, friends undoubtedly would have shared had they lived.
How are all the deaths of these loved ones connected? Quite simply, the death of anyone we care for, and who cared for us, is never easy, and we are all diminished by what might have been had they lived - through the tragedies of the Twin Towers, Shanksville, and the Pentagon, to the battlefields of the Middle East, to the death of a child at the hands of a speeding, texting, or stop-sign running driver. We imagine a high school graduation, a wedding, a future grandchild, a hug, an "I love you," a hike in the mountains together, sharing holidays and birthdays, and so much more. We often grieve for the possibilities of the future, for what could have been.
Within our sorrow, we are left not only with memories, but also of the challenge of new possibilities - of what we each can do to create a legacy in remembering all the life and love a daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, friend has shared with us. Over the 13 years that I have worked to grow Keep Kids Alive Drive 25, I have encountered families who, like many of the survivors of the tragedies of 9/11, work to bring great good into our world in memory of their loved one. Click on these links to learn their stories.
- Cady Ann Reynolds, Age 17, Omaha, NE
- Conor Lynch, Age 16, Van Nuys, CA
- Brianna Vitek, Age 16, Winona, MN
- Emily Jasmine Ranyak, Age 18, Merritt Island, FL
- Gabby Mair, Age 12, Deltona, FL
- Brandon McPherson, Age 16, Weatherby Lake, MO
- Erika Joy Rowan, Age 16, Cozad, NE
- Graeme Preston Age 12, Freehold NJ
- Nick Peters, Age 15, Wahoo, NE
- Matt Schmill, Age 23, Omaha, NE
- James Davis, Age 29, White Bear Lake, MN
- Maddison Hart, Age 5, Sikeston, MO
- Myles McCarron, Age 16, Lunenburg, MA
In addition, these families have enacted redeeming actions on behalf of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in memory of their loved ones:
- Sean Martin has tirelessly worked with local officials and schools in Miami Lakes, FL in honor of his son, Shaye, struck by a speeding motorist while walking on the sidewalk in a school zone. Shaye's photo appears on the above banner.
- Barbara Foster, along with her State Representative and many friends worked to see "Kyle's Law" through to passage to allow Texas communities to more easily lower their residential speed limits.
- Karen Steffan initiated Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 in Waukesha, WI in honor of Ashley - whose photo appears on the banner above.
- Natalie DeLeon's mother, Beatriz, daily efforts working with Massachusetts legislators to enact a primary seat belt law in her honor.
- The Henry family of Yardville, NJ set up an educational scholarship in honor of Anthony. This year they awarded 10 scholarships in Anthony's name.
- The Diffenderfers of Perkiomenville, PA created a butterfly garden for the community in honor of 2 year-old Anna.
- The Faust family of Lees Summit, MO doggedly worked to address engineering challenges that factored in to Justin's death.
- The Lloyd family of Omaha set up a scholarship fun in honor of Shannon to support one or more classmates upon their graduation from high school in 2012.
These efforts in memory of loved ones join today, and each day, with the families of all who have ever experienced the tragic death of a loved one. As we embrace the life we have been given, each of us is challenged each day to live a life worthy of creating a legacy that can benefit others. We can start by paying attention to our interactions within our families, among our neighbors, and with as we meet folks we might ordinarily think of as strangers. Building a legacy begins with courtesy, with manners, with consideration. We can even include our driving behaviors, which can make all the difference in keeping others, and ourselves, safe and alive on and around roadways of all kinds. Begin today by visiting "Get Started to Keep Kids Alive."
Contact: Tom Everson