Monday, April 13, 2009

NICK ADENHART - August 24, 1986 to April 9, 2009

On Wednesday night, April 8, 2009, Nick Adenhart debuted as the starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels in the 2009 Major League Baseball season, throwing six shutout innings. Nick was 22-years old. His father flew into LA for the game; they spoke about it after. Nick was “living his dream” after overcoming serious Tommy John surgery at a very early age, but going on to grow up in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm team system, finally debuting in 2008, and pitching the first game of the 2009 season.

A few short hours later, Nick Adenhart was critically injured in a hit and run accident. Two of his friends in the car, Courtney Stewart, 20, and Henry Pearson, 25, died at the scene. Nick died in surgery hours later. Another friend, Jon Wilhite, 24, survived and was hospitalized, but on Sunday his condition was upgraded from critical to serious, while remaining in ICU. Hopefully, his physical recovery will progress.

I didn’t know Nick Adenhart. I didn’t know his friends; I didn’t know his parents. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of him since, although I enjoy baseball, I was not an Angel’s fan. I didn’t live close enough to be one.

I didn’t know the person who murdered those three young people. That 22-year-old driver ran from the scene, was later apprehended, found with alcohol three times the legal limit in his body, and was driving on a suspended license after conviction on another DUI charge. He went through an intersection against the signal. Since he ran from the scene, I can only assume that he was conscious enough to know that he killed three people and critically injured another. I hope he remembers. I hope he suffers. But probably, numbed up by alcohol, he will be able to “forget” or “not remember.” He is being charged with, among other things, three charges of murder. Well deserved, but sadly, another young life ruined.

Not everyone who is the victim of a drunk driver is a “celebrity” or “sports figure.” And while Adenhart was known by more than some, he is still a victim, one among many. His story made the national news – millions more of these tragedies don’t and the stories are only known by those left behind - parents, siblings, extended family and friends. The pain, the suffering, the endless torment of “Why did this happen to them? What was that person who hit them thinking?”

Accidents such as these illustrate the useless waste of lives by people who insist on driving drunk! I have a hard time talking about this subject because I so vehemently oppose the concept of drinking and driving…yes, I understand that alcohol lowers your ability to reason…but hasn’t anyone who has driven drunk ever planned ahead? Rides to and from the bar, designated drivers, the bus, a cab? (Yes, I know that many do and I am not talking about responsible drinkers.)

I guess the only way to attempt to protect yourself from people who insist on endangering your life by driving drunk is to follow something my father taught me at a very early age: defensive driving.

Dad taught me to never enter an intersection without looking both ways (even if you have the “right-of-way”) – this need not slow you down all that much, although some drivers behind you will get annoyed. Too bad, it’s your life you are protecting and perhaps theirs as well. And never assume that the other driver sees you, or knows what you are going to do. When in doubt, slow down until one or both of you is aware of the other and understands what the other is doing.

People don’t have to be drunk to make bad decisions. We all do from time to time. We’re tired, we’re late, we’re stressed … we’ve all done it. But this isn’t about those people. It’s about the victims of irresponsible, drunk drivers.

May Nick and his friends who are gone rest in peace. May God bless their families and friends and fill up the spaces that are left with the comfort of His love. May God heal the hurting hearts of all those who are left behind by tragic circumstances such as these. Whether we knew the victims or not, we feel the pain. I know I do…deeply.

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