A Life-Changing Event

A Life-Changing Event

Sadie Underwood, Sr. High Staff Writer

I once looked at a man in utter disgust behind the chilling bars of a dimly-lit prison cell. Convinced that his crime was completely avoidable and twelve years locked behind those bars was more than reasonable, I did not feel even an inch of sympathy. I watched as the people around me fought long and hard to defend him and reduce the sentencing. But, how could you possibly defend someone responsible for the murder of a child and its mother and grandmother? I never truly understood such a case, until it became a reality for me.

“Just get some sleep, it’s not that hard,” “you look horrible,” “rest,” no one seems to understand that with anxiety these dark eye bags come easy. As your heart races, all the upcoming pressures invade your brain like soldiers charging into battle. Worries stabbing over and over again as the minutes tick by on the clock. Tick 1 am… tick 2 am… tick 3 am. The late nights, the endless homework, the practices, the clubs, the relationships. In the midst of balancing it all, somehow you continue to make it out alive. Until the final collapse.

It was just another long, hot, eight-hour summer day at work with a group of kids who really don’t want to be at summer recreation. The morning blast of caffeinated coffee got me through the forty-five-minute drive there. At the end of my shift, I slunk into my car for the long haul home. I blasted my music and tried to sing along, but my mind refused to find the lyrics and I soon went silent. Thinking a lively conversation would propel me to my destination, I called a friend–no answer. When coming too close to other cars, the car’s safety system would, occasionally, beep me awake. However, the awareness was only temporary. My head and eyelids felt heavier and heavier with each mile.

It was all a blur. With my music on full blast, the beeps were hushed down to a whisper. I awoke to the car windshield shattering into a million pieces and the sound of denting mangled metal as the car wrapped itself around a large wooden mailbox. My mind suddenly sprung back into action as I jerked the steering wheel and slammed my foot on the brakes to stop the damaging propulsion of the car. I was completely capsized by a wave of shock after brutally murdering what was once an intact, pristine car. 

The homeowner’s mailbox was flattened underneath the wheels of the car and mail flooded the street. Before I knew it, red and blue flashing lights appeared in my rearview mirror. I was so overwhelmed with mortification that I was at a loss for words when the officer asked how it all had happened. I wasn’t on my phone or intoxicated, I was just asleep, what seemed like the dumbest reason ever. Yet, this was the same reason the man was convicted of homicide. 

While I was fortunate to have been on the back roads at the time and only have to worry about paying for the damage of the car and mailbox, I realized that being at the wrong place at the wrong time can change everything. The less-fortunate man, a close family friend, had fallen asleep behind the wheel due to the extremely tiring effects of being over-worked, crashing head-on into the car of the three ill-fated family members.

My personal experience had answered my original question. Moreover, it served as clear reasoning for his defense. In just the blink of an eye, an everyday, ethical and principled individual can become an unintentional criminal. $9,000 in damages and insurance rates doubling, all because I did not pay attention to my body’s signs of defeat and anxiety levels. A costly lesson that replays in my mind every time I place a hand on the wheel.