Opinion

Coming to grips with another fatality | Editorial

When tragedies happen in our island communities, anger, grief and shock can pull us together or pull us apart. Sometimes it’s a little of both.

Lopez Island residents are dealing with something that San Juan Island residents have dealt with several times this decade: a deadly collision involving a teen driver. This time, alcohol was not involved. Instead, police say a 15-year-old driver, driving over the speed limit, clipped a young bicyclist and killed a jogger. The driver’s passenger is still in the hospital, being treated for injuries received in the subsequent crash. The seven-year-old Seattle girl is home after undergoing hand surgery. The Canadian man’s family is mourning the loss of a vibrant, young loved one.

The day after the crash, a town hall meeting was held at Lopez School; more than 100 residents attended. It was an emotional gathering, with one clear message: we must support each other.

The responses to this tragedy have been overwhelming, in the islands’ newspapers, online news sites and regional press. Some have been negative, some have laid blame, but most agree it is an incredibly painful event.

No matter what island we call home, we need to talk about this tragedy — honestly, openly and respectfully. If you’re a parent, talk to your children. Talk about what happened and why it happened. Talk about the dangers of driving too fast. Even though alcohol and drugs were not factors in this crash, talk about those too. Talk about responsible driving. Talk about how drunken driving and speeding are both irresponsible and can have tragic results.

The laws are already on the books, but it comes down to choices our children and teens make for themselves and how we guide

them. It’s sometimes difficult for children and teens to understand what “life altering” really means. Make it real. Bring it home. Don’t let them forget.

As families, friends and EMTs touched by this accident deal with their own grief, we wish them serenity and strength.

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