By Sam Westcott
Special to The Western Star
A candlelight vigil was held inside the Salvation Army Temple for survivors and those affected by drunk driving.
The vigil was hosted by MADD, Bay of Islands.
Inside the Salvation Army Temple friends, family, victims and crash survivors gathered. A small group of first responders also participated in the vigil.
The night was to remember stories like Phyllis Keeping’s.
Keeping lost her daughter in a drunk-driving accident 22 years ago. Her daughter had been passing through Quebec at the time. And despite the fact the tragedy happened over two decades ago, Phyllis still recounts the moments before finding out her daughter had died as if they hold a place in her memory much closer to the present than the timestamp on them suggests.
The people in attendance listening to her story seemed to feel this, too. Almost everyone in the room had, in some way, been affected by similar tragic incidents.
“She was supposed to get the ferry,” Keeping said. “But when I asked my husband if he heard from her, he said no.”
Then there’s a gap in her story, when you can sense some time had passed during the day.
Eventually, Keeping was interrupted by her husband.
Coming in, he had said, “Get your purse, we have to go.”
Keeping’s first thought was that it was her mother. By the time she was in the car with her husband, however, she knew. This was about her daughter.
“My sister said I changed clothes six times, I was in that much shock,” said Keeping.
Before Keeping spoke on Wednesday night, candles were lit with colours symbolic of human traits. One of these was the colour red, and the reader had said, “The red ray of that flame shall be courage — the courage which shall make us fearless and dauntless in pursuit of our mission to stop impaired driving.”
David Buckle, regional director of para-medicine and medical transport, was one of the first responders at hand inside the temple. He recounted the years he spent on an ambulance.
“It seemed every accident we responded to was alcohol-involved,” he said.
Buckle hasn’t worked as a paramedic in a few years, so he doesn’t know if the situation has gotten any better. However, he says the general attitude toward drunk driving hasn’t.
“It still seems like it’s an acceptable thing to do,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”
The red candle lit before Keeping shared her experience of receiving the news of her daughter’s death was a symbol for courage in the pursuit of stopping impaired driving.
Until the puzzle of drunk driving is filed away for good, MADD, Bay of Islands, Keeping, and all those others affected must continue to display that courage daily.