Drinking and driving costs lives

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- My sister's clothes were still neatly laid out on her bed. She liked to choose the next day's clothes in advance and her clothes stayed on her bed for years. 

Melony's, age 13, bedroom stayed exactly the way she left it the night she had a sleep-over at her friend's house. 

Her friend, Mara, also13, lived two miles away next to a busy street. The street had a bar a few miles down the road. An intoxicated man driving home from the bar passed out behind the wheel and plowed into a house. The car happened to enter the house in the room where my sister and her friend were sleeping. The car drove over my sister's friend, paralyzing her from the waist down and came to a stop pinning my sister down. 

I was 10 years old when I woke up and noticed my parents were gone and a friend of my father's was sitting at our kitchen table. 

"Matthew, there's been an accident," he said. "Your sister is in the hospital and your parents will be calling you to give you more information." 

I started quizzing him on the details, but all he could come up with was her leg was broken. 

The first call came from my mother. The uneasy sound in her voice when she said, "Your sister's going to be o.k., but the doctor said she will likely walk with a limp her entire life." 

I had the feeling she was masking her voice with a cheery pitch that made her sound like she was on the verge of tears. 

She wouldn't give me any details until the next call a few hours later. I remember her saying something about my sister's stomach being hurt and that the doctors had to operate. This time her voice was quivering, and it was harder for her to mask her voice.

Later I found they operated on her leg and vital organs and thought they had the internal bleeding under control. It turned out they didn't. I didn't get to see her before she died, but she did ask my parents if I knew what happened and asked how I was doing. 

I didn't have a chance to talk to my sister before she passed, but I do have a chance to get the word out about my experience and how important it is to keep off the road when intoxicated. I often wonder how the people in the bar let the man decide to stagger out and get in his car. 

Before going out drinking, have a plan to get home safely and be on the look out for that person who shouldn't be getting into a vehicle. One of your loved ones may depend on it.