David Stoller

What if it happened to me?

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Rollover Vehicle Accident at Busy Intersection With Emergency PeHow often do we ask the question, “what if it happened to me”? Some life altering event has occurred, making us a victim or villain in a horrible moment.

Our lives are driven by beliefs, attitudes, and decisions that affect us before we encountered this fork in the road. The “what if” is something most people can’t possibly appreciate with the same heart as the “what happened”. In this case, what if a loved one died because of a distracted driver?

In a most dramatic view, a mother who loses her son to a texting driver will likely take on depression, hate and/or determination at some point down the road. The depression will usually take place after the funeral when family and friends return to their own lives. The hate is towards the action of texting and the ignorance of the person who felt the need to text over the understanding of its most tragic possibility. The mother will want the greatest of penalties applied to the irresponsible driver, possibly wanting to face the person in order to vent her feelings of loss by a thief of life. Determination may build to make sure that it won’t happen to someone else, by raising awareness in others through her horrible loss.

But, what if the driver of the other car was a mother like her, receiving an urgent text about her son just being shot by an intruder in their home. She never uses a text while driving, because she knows the danger and often reminded her son and daughter of this. But, at this horrifying moment, she felt the surreal need to just peak at the phone, and upon seeing only the words “son”, “shot”, and “hospital”, she froze for just that split second. It was a  moment when the other mother lost her son’s life as his car was struck by this other car running a red light while reading a text.

What if this happened to you? How many different feelings would you have? Would your anger towards this second mother change once you knew the reason? Would you be as determined to change the law about texting and driving or would you be more focused on something different? “What if”? Does the second mother deserve any sympathy, especially after finding out that her son also died? Instead of being a mother who just lost her son to a criminal’s gun, what if the other driver was a 22 year old girl on her way to a college beer pool party while texting. Would your beliefs change? What if it happened to you? What if you were victim’s brother or sister? What if you were the distracted driver’s husband or only remaining child?

The two mother’s reactions are understood by most people. In this case, it is the common bond of the mothers that changed the lives of many. Two mothers who both lost their sons. Two mothers whose families are shattered. One mother who was legally at fault and another mother torn to find fault. Blame and accountability are necessary. But, we can understand that life is not black and white and we can stop trying to make it that way. Not all distracted drivers are horrible people. Unintended accidents do occur. Must there be a legal intervention into this tragedy where everyone is a victim.  We have to understand the “why” before we should be permitted to add to the list of victims through legal punishment.

Ask someone who lost a child and the answer is easy. Penalize the other driver. But, is this the right thing to do?

Would you now change your mind, again, about everything if you found out that the son who died because someone was texting, also turned out to be texting? Is there ever an excuse for a tragedy? Answers are impossible and knowing that both mother’s prior to this tragic second in time were exceptionally loving mothers who were very charitable with their lives. What should we think? What should we do?

The next time you reach for words of judgment, remember to take one moment and stop. Think. There are likely two sides of this story. Every judgment must acknowledge that both people are now victims and we must ask…..”What if it happened to me”?

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