I had my brother in my hand and all of a sudden my hand was empty.
Xavier is now 8 and we call him X. He is to us the mighty X man.
Yes. X as a little person, from the time that he hit the floor in the morning
until you had to forcefully almost tie him down at night,
he was running back and forth, back and forth, extremely energetic.
He could call football plays. He loved the Green Bay Packers.
I can turn the game on and sit him in front of it and do house chores.
You know most people sit their babies in front of Sesame Street.
I could sit X in front of a game.
He would have been an excellent athlete.
I was always looking forward to being in the stand screaming X, X, X, X, X.
That was mom’s dream, to be screaming from a football stands.
He’s just arriving from school now. I got to have him back.
I got to know how school went. I got to know today, Friday,
so I need to know if he got 106 on his spelling test, which is almost always does.
X is paralyzed from the diaphragm down.
In the accident part of his spinal cord was dissipated.
His legs are gone. His chair are his legs now. The use of his right hand is partial.
He woke up actually from the coma a lefty and he went in a righty.
She missed his brain stem by that much. X is on life support.
The ventilator has to breathe for my son.
Most nights, I’m here on the couch listening for the ventilator.
Listening to, making sure all the breaths are right. That his PEEP doesn’t change.
That he doesn’t need suctioning during the night. I hear everything.
I hear everything. I can hear the ventilator change cycles.
I could hear just the breath sounds different and run down the stairs
and the nurse goes, “He’s good mom, He’s good. Boy, you got good ears”.
There are times when the pain is so bad I can’t breathe.
I want to say the worse thing that I can say to X,
which I used to be able to say all the time, “Go in the yard and play”.
I can’t say that anymore. Because if we go play,
we need to take the suction machine,
we need to transfer him over to the ventilator before his chair,
before we can do anything. We need to do that first. It’s a production.
I cant’ say go play.
Any mother understands. I can’t say go play.
He comes to life when she comes in the room.
X doesn’t remember as well as both Aurie and I do .
But Aurie was walking across the street with Xzavier on that October day.
Beep…Beep…Beep.. Beep.. Beep..
We pray that that doesn’t happen to another brother sister.
We pray that another child doesn’t get taken from a family member’s hand.
She came from this direction and at first, we didn’t event see her.
The cars on the other side of the stop sign,
they stepped off the curb coming across the street and Aurie said he was gone.
She took him from Aurie’s hand.
She was not only speeding in the school zone
but she had also ran the stop sign because she was texting.
The lady who hit X was texting. Texting. Her head was in her lap.
She never even saw X in front of her.
She actually came straight through the stop sign,
there were no brake marks, no skid marks at all.
She never stopped at a 4-way stop sign.
She never stopped. You know, I ‘m told the text was “I’m on my way”.
Did she make it. Did she get to where she was going on time.
That would be my question for her.
I felt like it was just a dream.
And for weeks it did. It felt I would wake up and I just think,
did I dream that accident.
I’m just a guy, you know, I’m just young guy. I got a wife,
you know a daughter on the way.
I just a guy, this couldn’t have happened to me, that can’t be real.
I had to have just dreamed that.
Memories, you know, what you saw that day.
You know, they come back at different points.
You know, I’ll be somewhere and see an Amish family or see an Amish
and it will bring back memories of the accident.
This was the last text message I sent before I
caused an accident that killed 3 people.
The Amish family was on their way. 8:00 in the morning that day
and then the van was driven by a young man from Bluffton, Chandler Gerber.
He was on his way to a job. He cleaned carpets at the time
and he was traveling about the speed limit.
We determined he was not speeding or anything like that, just traveling along.
And he overtook the Amish right over there, just right where my car is
and basically hit the Amish buggy from behind.
And just ended up all way to the point of where my car is about 400 feet,
430 feet where he ended up, where the van ended up.
I was heading east right into the sun rise, driving along.
As I was driving. I was texting back and forth with my wife.
I was texting and I think I was reading a text back at the time of the accident
because I remember driving and like my head just snapped up
when I saw the windshield just, glass broke and screeching and my head.
It happened in about a second, I mean I had a thousand thoughts
going through my mind and I start coming to a stop.
I saw a body come down off the top of the van and I just thought
“oh my gosh, what have I done?” “What have I done?”
And I realized I hit something and then I realized it was an Amish buggy.
I jumped out of the van; Totally silent outside the van.
At that second in time, there was no one else coming or going.
I walked around back and I looked in the ditch
and there were bodies just laying there. I mean it was just silent, it was quiet.
The only sound I hear was, only thing I saw moving was the horse.
It was severely wounded. It was kind of moving around on the ground a little bit.
I remember the mother was laying, I believe, face down on her hands
and knees like she’s been sitting on a chair
and it’s just the force just hit her she didn’t have time to move,
she was sitting in that same position on the ground.
And I just remember just staring and no one else around except me
and the family that was laying in the ditch and the horse and just silent.
You have all kinds of chaos here.
This is the van that was driven by Chandler Gerber.
As you can see, the front of the vehicle is just totally smashed here.
He was devastated. He was crying. He was just almost in a panic mode.
I knew that I’ve been texting and driving.
I knew that I’ve been around that time involved with
reading my phone or texting or what have you.
I was hysterical. I was I think I was probably in shock.
I was sitting in the van in the passenger seat
taking in as far as I can see straight ahead, just lights and sirens and people.
And I saw a hearse drive by and so right then
I had this sinking feeling that there was at least one dead person.
They took 2 young children it was a 3 year old and a 5 year old.
They took a 17 year son.
I saw the youngest of the children, 3 year old Inis..
He was laying face down in the ditch right here just to our side,
right behind, right in front of me here actually.
He looked like he was asleep until we rolled him over
and saw all the injuries to his face.
Injuries to his legs, they looked like they were both broken. It was very devastating.
Shortly after the accident, it was pretty rough.
A lot of tears, a lot of why did this happen?
This note was from Martin Swartz, the father of the children
that had passed away from my accident.
It says, Dear Ones, Trusting in God’s ways, How does this find you?
Hope all in good health and in good cheer.
Around here we’re all on the go and trying to make the best we can.
I always wonder if we take enough time with our children.
Wishing you the best with your little one and the unknown future.
I think of you often. Keep looking up. God is always there.
Sincerely, Martin and Mary Swartz.
I just I wish, I wish so bad I can go back to that day and change my focus.
I wish I can go back and say,
“You know, I can do these texts when I get to my stop, when I get there.
I don’t have to do this right now while I’m driving.”
You know, there’s just nothing that important. But at that point,
you know, it was just, oh I can text and drive, it’s no big deal.
And it is a big deal. Please, please don’t do it. Please don’t ever text and drive.
It’s life, you get one chance and you live with the choice you make.
She has no life really. Her balance is off, her arms don’t work very well.
She likes to watch the boats going up and down the river. She’s got double vision.
She can’t see very well. It’s very hard for her. She cannot leave this yard.
We put up a fence in her backyard so she wouldn’t roll down the bank into the river.
She loves feeding her birds; taking care of the wildlife that comes around.
She had her life planned she was always planning everything.
Now she can’t plan anything, because she can’t remember anything.
Debbie was very active, outgoing…she worked 60+ hours a week.
She held a very good position, traveling all over the world.
Going to Istanbul, Turkey and travelling to France and loving, working for her job.
They love Debbie very, very much.
Now she’s dependant on everybody: myself, my brother, friends…
She cannot go into the front of the yard by herself because her vision.
It was a Sunday night, August 7th, approximately 9:15,
my sister had come out of her house to get her mail.
By the big pine tree she was struck by a teenager texting and driving.
The white mail box is where my sister was struck,
was carried on the hood of the car, right over here,
and this is where the neighbors found her.
When she was in the hospital she was swollen from head to toe.
She had a shunt sticking out of her head right here to
relieve pressure in her brain because her brain was so swollen.
Her eyes, her right eye was swollen shut. Her face was swollen.
Her neck was broken. Both her arms were broken. Her ribs were broken.
Her pelvis was smashed. She had a broken ankle and a broken leg.
Her thumb ripped off…almost ripped off they sewed it back together.
It was terrible, it was heartbreaking.
She was in her coma and I went up to her and I started talking to her.
I had her hand and she squeezed my hand, she knew I was there.
I told her, I said, “Debbie, I know you’re in there
and I know you can’t talk or anything but I know you’re in there.”
She gave me another squeeze of my hand
and she knew I was talking to her. She could feel it.
Her sentence was 30 days in jail. She got 5 months of house arrest,
500 hours of community service and that’s about it.
My sister doesn’t want anything to do with her.
She’s too angry right now and I don’t think that anger
is going to go away anytime soon.
Charlie is the big chocolate lab right here.
He was 11 years old when he was killed. Charlie was about 115 lbs…
We’re working on my sister and then somebody said, “Where’s Debbie’s dog?”
That’s when the search went out and they found him over there in the trees.
The mail box, the blue mail box had been knocked out.
We think he was thrown through the air and knocked that mailbox down.
He took the full force of the car.
He laid on the side of the road, the neighbors told us,
wagging his tail while Debbie was being loaded up in the ambulance.
Its just not right my sister’s life has been changed forever.
She went from being active to inactive. In a stroke of a second.
It’s over. Her life as she knew it is over. She loved work.
She helped me with my children, she was always there for me.
It’s heartbreaking everyday to see my sister like this
when you knew how she was before.
I love you.
I’m very fond of telescopes.
Its just a reminder of my father in the good times we used to have.
The telescope is just another way I look at him
being a scientist and the brilliant man he was.
At night we would go out side and look at the stars
and he would tell me the different constellations and we would learn them.
When there were meteor showers he would come
and wake me up at 3 o clock in the morning
and he would take me outside and we would stare
and watch the meteor showers for hours.
Just me and my Dad wrapped up outside in blankets.
It was just a phenomenal feeling, just good Father/Daughter time for us.
The best father I could have ever asked for.
Growing up I was pretty typical, played a lot of sports growing up,
played basketball, played football, played baseball, ran track...
I’m quiet on the phone. I’m awkward on the phone.
I have always preferred to text or talk in person.
I’m a cowboy I guess and I’m a child of the mountains.
I recently took a trip out to the prairie and it was pretty
but I’m a child of the mountains and I need mountains around me.
Every morning I get up and watch the sun come up over this mountain to the east.
It’s a beautiful mountain and I watch the sun
go down in the west over another pretty mountain.
So I’m not the much into technology as a blacksmith all your problems
can be solved with a bigger hammer; the more heat and a bigger hammer.
So I’m not much of a technology guy, and I never liked texting
and since that day I liked it even less.
I text often…daily I keep in touch with friends and family.
The car doing the texting was going this direction.
The two engineers were heading out this way
and as they passed they brushed each other,
which spun the little blue car with the engineers…
spun it around this way into the path of an oncoming pickup.
There’s about a 15 or 16 mile stretch of highway 30 going to Logan.
From the time we started on that stretch of road headed towards Logan,
the driver ahead of me was distracted
he crossed over the center line multiple times.
It was early in the morning, It was still fairly dark outside.
It was raining pretty bad and I’m on the way to work, texting,
and reading messages and I go across the center line and I hit another car.
I don’t remember what I was texting.
I don’t remember what the message said. That’s how important it was.
I saw him cross over the center line
and at that moment things going into slow motion and you can just see...
I thought, man, this is going to be bad.
I remember the sound of the cars hitting:
glass breaking, brakes, and tires squealing.
He just side swiped it and sent it into a skid and I had the definite recollection
that I knew right then that I was going to collide with that car.
I just thought, “Oh, this is going to be bad.” I knew right then and there.
The question on my mind was, “How bad is this going to be?”
My truck…hit the passengers side of the car and basically scooped the car up
and carried it off into the ditch with us.
I had braked and was trying to stop and avoid it and obviously I couldn’t.
My pickup went halfway through that car.
I got out of my car and I ran back towards the accident
and…there was a man on the phone,
I heard him say there were two men in the car that... weren’t breathing.
The two people that were killed were inside the blue car.
This other one shows what the car looked like after the accident.
…I look at that picture…
all I can think about is those families, those two men.
While I was driving I decided that texting
and driving was more important to me than those two men and their families.
…and how selfish that was of me to make that decision to text and drive.
Knowing everyday…that you killed two people, is
one of the hardest things you can live with.
I have night terrors all the time about my Dad’s car accident that come in waves
…It could be just me standing on the side of the highway where it happened.
Just watching the accident happen and not being able to move, I can’t go try
and stop the accident from happening. I can’t go see if my fathers okay.
I can’t save my father, I’m just standing on the side of the road,
I can’t do anything…
To I’ve been…Reggie, the one texting while driving that hits the car.
Just being the one that causes the accident…
To I’ve been the driver of the truck that t-boned my Dad.
Just sitting in the seat, killing my own father.
I ended up with some herniated discs in my back
and my knees took a pretty big beating in the dash.
How much of the damage from them in the accident?
I don’t know. Horseshoeing is a very physical occupation.
It’s hard on your back anyway
and to suddenly end up with some herniated discs...your life horseshoeing is over.
Its been almost 7 years in September and it is still very difficult for me.
That accident was preventable. There’s no other way to look at it.
I put my phone away and I save those two men’s lives.
It’s that simple. It’s that simple, for me,
now looking back and when I speak to others I share the same message.
I say, “Its now that easy for you going forward to save someone’s life.
You put the phone away while you drive
and you’re safer behind the wheel and everyone else is
safer on the road around you.”
I want people to look at me and look at what I did
and what I caused and say, “ I don’t want to be that guy.”
The first time I saw Reggie in court, my feelings were just pure hatred.
I was appalled at the fact that this kid my age had killed my Dad…
taken him away from me.
On my sentencing date, the families had a chance to get up
and address me and speak to me.
All I can do is just look at him and hate him
and wish how much he would die and that it was him
that was dead instead of my Dad.
Megan got up and she talked about her wedding and she had just gotten married…
and she talks about her father wasn’t there to walk her down the aisle…
and she looked at me and she said because you took that from me...
she was absolutely right.
I would like to think that my Dad is somewhere in the universe.
I go outside at night and sit on my balcony when I’m really upset
and I stare at the sky and whenever I’m super upset, I always see a shooting star.
I like to think that’s my Dad’s way of communicating with me.
I felt that my Dad would not have wanted me to be mad at him for the rest of my life
and I knew my Dad had forgiven him.
I knew that and that he would want me to try and move on
and forgive him and even get to know him.
Forgiveness is…something that I see from Megan.
I see that forgiveness, I feel it. I’m grateful for it.
I reached out to Reggie to tell him that my Dad forgives you, I forgive you.
I want to help you through, you trying to make a difference in this whole thing.
I was once told that to be a good member of society,
you have to give back more than you can take.
I can never give back those two men’s lives ever
I would just like to say for anybody out there who has a cell phone,
focus while you’re driving, pay attention while you’re driving,
don’t take your eyes off the road while you’re driving.
Things can happen so quick that will change your life forever.
I will say it over and over and over again, don’t text and drive…It can wait.
I would tell America to please don’t text and drive,
how many other people are going to have to be killed?
How many other people are going to be like my sister Debbie?
It’s nuts, It’s crazy,
I don’t know why people don’t’ want to talk to each other anyway.