Everyone knows how stupid it is to drink and drive. But despite that, there are still far too many people who choose to get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.
Eric Smallridge was on his way home from a bar one night. He was angry because his car was refusing to start. As he sat there in the parking lot, a friend approached him and asked:
”Eric, are you sure you can drive?”, reports CBS News.
He remembered some friends being locked up for drunk driving when he was younger, but it had never seemed like that big a deal. They’d lost their licenses for a few months, but they’d simply found some friends who could drive them around.
He swore to his friend that he would be fine, and he was. But unfortunately, the two young girls he hit on his way home were not.
In May 11th 2002, Megan Napier and Lisa Dickson, both 20 years old, were on their way home from a babysitting job at 2.30 a.m. when they were hit by Eric’s car. They both died on the spot.
Eric was sentenced to 22 years in prison, 11 years for each of the girls.
Renee Napier, Megan’s mom, was completely devastated after the incident. She had no idea how she would move on.
It felt like there was a huge hole inside her that she would never be able to fill. She thought she would never be happy again.
To her, Eric’s long sentence was more than justified.
When he was sentenced, Eric cried in the courtroom and said: “I’ve caused so much pain, and there’s nothing I can do.”
Despite this, Renee thought that Eric had seemed defensive and unappologetic during the trial. She wasn’t ready to forgive him yet.
“I could hate him forever and the world would tell me that I have a right to do that,” Renee tells CBS News.
“It’s not going to do me any good, and it’s not going to do him any good. I would grow old and bitter and angry and hateful. In my opinion, forgiveness is the only way to heal.”
Renee didn’t want to end up like that. She wanted to heal.
Shortly after he was sentenced, Eric wrote a letter to each family where he appologised for his behaviour and all the pain he had caused.
Renee wrote back saying that she forgave him, but at the time she didn’t. It was still too hard, even though she knew that forgiveness was the only way for her to move on.
When Eric received her letter, he felt like a weight had been lifted. Even though he knew he would live with what he had done forever, Renee’s letter gave him some comfort.
Renee got to know Eric’s family, and over time she realized that he wasn’t just some careless idiot, he was actually a good guy. A good guy who had made a terrible decision that he’ll regret for the rest of his life.
Renee realized that her hatred towards Eric would never bring Megan and Lisa back.
So, two years after the conviction she did something that has caused people all around the world to react. She went to the judge and appealed for Eric’s sentence to be cut in half. The judge listened to her case and decided to grant her request.
Eric appologised to the family again and again and promised Renee that he would try and live up to their expectations as best he could.
After her daughter’s tragic death, Renee founded a non-profit organisation to increase awareness around drunk driving and its consequences. She didn’t want Megan och Lisa’s death to be in vain.
Renee and Eric now give lectures together to young people and hope that their story will help others understand that just one bad decision can have terrible consequences.
Drunk driving is never OK. Renee and Eric know that better than anyone.
In 2015 over 10 000 people in the US died in car accidents involving alcohol or drugs, reports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s never OK to drive under the influence of alcohol. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and leave the car where it is.
Nobody wants to live the rest of their life knowing that their actions killed somebody, and no family should have to hear that their loved one is no longer around because another person chose not to take a cab or walk home.
You can see the video made in Megan’s memory below:
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