The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting today on a 16 year old girl who died Sunday when the car she was in rolled over. It rolled because the drunk teenage driver was racing another teen. The driver, the son of a local judge, is on suicide watch.
This tragedy is heartbreaking enough, but what makes it worse is that this keeps happening.
There’s a memorial in front of my school for two young women who were killed in a speed-related traffic accident just off campus three years ago.
In 2002, two cars full of kids were returning to Las Vegas High School from lunch down a stretch of Sahara Avenue that kids often use for racing. They went too fast and one car crashed, killing two of the four girls in that car.
I worked there that year, and knew one of the survivors. I remember going to see her in the hospital, trying to cheer her up a bit. Her recovery was long and painful; she’s an adult by now, and I don’t know how fully she ever healed from her injuries. The other survivor lost a leg entirely.
The driver was friends with two girls in one of my classes. When the driver died, her friends told me that they were almost glad for her, because otherwise she’d have had to live knowing that she was responsible for killing another friend.
And yet, by the next year, kids were speeding down that street again. And in front of my current school, where the beautiful memorial reminds us of two more girls who died the same way, I see cars full of kids speeding nearly every day, going off into the desert or passing others on a two lane road.
I can’t help but wonder, how are we supposed to teach kids to write and calculate if we can’t even teach them not to kill themselves with reckless driving?
A boy I knew at another school had a sister who had been killed by a woman driving under the influence. He and his friends had a reputation for avoiding drugs. Then, a couple of years later, his girlfriend showed me a note that he’d written her, asking if she wanted to ditch school after lunch and go get high.
I know of more examples. Words fail.
On a related sub-note, I haven’t read or seen anything yet about how the kids at Coronado are coping with this latest tragic death, but based on my experiences with similar situations, I have a pretty good guess, and it makes me even sadder.
I bet kids are going around in hastily-yet-professionally designed silk screen t-shirts with the dead girl’s picture on them. Even beyond the shoe polish “RIP” messages on rear windows that I’m sure are also prominent today, this coldly materialistic kind of “mourning” strikes me as inappropriate.
I don’t know that I blame the kids for this. They’ve been nursed on a media so melodramatic that we can’t be surprised when their first response to tragedy is exaggerated weeping and wailing. But I wish we could teach them to focus their grief on missing the deceased and cherishing life, and not on bemoaning their own loss.
The t-shirts especially bother me. The fact that they pop up so quickly and so uniformly in their quality suggests that they’re comfortable advertising, “Hey! Look at me! I knew the dead kid! Isn’t my sadness cool?” Sorry if that sounds bad, but that’s really how it looks. I’m not suggesting that all emotion needs to be choked down and repressed, but some degree of restrained respect has to be more appropriate than the festival concert of materialistic wallowing that we greet death with now.
A truly cynical person would see news reports like this and immediately produce some memorial merchandise of their own to sell to the kids at these schools. I know that’s horribly crass, but it must say something about the way we’re raising our children that such a person would walk away from that enterprise rich enough to not need to work again for a long, long time.
And on another related, sub-sub note, I see that the Review-Journal article I linked to in the first sentence has turned off comments. The only other time I’ve seen them do that is for this article, which also garnered some negative publicity for an important local judge.
Am I being paranoid in seeing a connection? Have The Powers That Be decided that open public discussion of local political figures must be squashed if it becomes too critical? As much as the R-J blusters about being libertarian, their management seems to me to be pretty solidly in favor of any orthodox status quo. In some cases, their election recommendations actually helped make me decide to vote the other way.