I was a speaker yesterday for the Every 15 minutes event held at Santa Rosa High School in California.
How I found myself standing there at a podium in front of 2,000 students, teachers, administrators, police officers, and emergency rescue workers, wasn't because of my photography background. It was because my son Zach was participating in this very emotional and important program.
Every 15 minutes a teenager is killed in a drunk driving related incident.
It feels abstract when stated like that. So this program attempts to make it real by staging an reenactment that lasts for two days, ending with a funeral for the children who died in the accident.
My stepson, Zach, was one of those teenagers in the crash. A police officer and a chaplain visited my studio to inform me of the incident. And then I was asked to write a letter to Zach expressing my feelings for him. After all the letters were reviewed, I was asked to read mine at the staged funeral.
Even though this was a reenactment, it didn't feel that way. And it's almost impossible not to get caught up in the emotion that comes with the thought of losing your child to a drunk driver.
I learned a lot about myself over those two days. And it certainly drove home the idea that our children need to feel like they can call us at any time, from any place, when they feel like they need help. Don't get in any car that doesn't feel safe. Ever.
It's a standing free pass.
If necessary, I would drive to the other end of the country, to retrieve a child to make sure he was OK.
Zach and his brother need to know that.
Yesterday, I told them so in front of 2,000 people.
And I will them again, and again,