Letter to the Editor: Important Reminder

I’ve debated on whether or not to write this letter for some time now but, in light of recent events, it only seems appropriate that I share my thoughts; hopefully they are well received. My mom showed me this piece, an op-ed in the Dear Abby section of the newspaper in her hometown – Ogden, UT. The piece by Dr. Michael Lee Poling, titled “Please God, I’m Only 17” has received considerable attention over the last several decades across all media outlets imaginable. While the circumstances outlined in this piece vary greatly from that of the recent accident involving a senior at Powell High School, it still serves as a solemn reminder that, even in our teenage elasticity, none of us are invincible:

Please God, I’m Only 17

The day I died was an ordinary school day. How I wish I had taken the bus! But I was too cool for the bus. I remember how I wheedled the car out of Mom. ”Special favor,” I pleaded. ”All the kids drive.” When the 2:50 bell rang, I threw all my books in the locker. I was free until 8:40 tomorrow morning! I ran to the parking lot, excited at the thought of driving a car and being my own boss. Free!

It doesn’t matter how the accident happened. I was goofing off–going too fast. Taking crazy chances. But I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard a deafening crash and I felt a terrible jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream.

Suddenly I awakened; it was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. Then I saw a doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Strange that I couldn’t feel anything.

Hey, don’t pull that sheet over my head! I can’t be dead. I’m only 17. I’ve got a date tonight. I’m supposed to grow up and have a wonderful life. I haven’t lived yet. I can’t be dead.

Later I was placed in a drawer. My folks had to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at Mom’s eyes when she faced the most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked like an old man. He told the man in charge, ”Yes, he is my son.”

The funeral was a weird experience. I saw all my relatives and friends walk toward the casket. They passed by, one by one, and looked at me with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of the girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked away.

Please–somebody–wake me up! Get me out of here! I can’t bear to see my mom and dad so broken up. My grandparents are so racked with grief they can hardly walk. My brother and sisters are like zombies. They move like robots. In a daze, everybody! No one can believe this. And I can’t believe it, either. Please don’t bury me! I’m not dead! I have a lot of living to do! I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please don’t put me in the ground. I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I’ll be the most careful driver in the whole world. All I want is one more chance.

Please, God, I’m only 17!

While fictional, it shouldn’t be forgotten that things like this happen every day. Let us not lose sight of the fragility of life. Nobody thinks it will happen to them. Nobody. Four days after I was issued my drivers’ license, I was t-boned in an intersection on my way to tennis practice. Thankfully, nobody was harmed in the accident. The best statistician in the world couldn’t have predicted that. But such is the ignorance of youthful improvidence. None of us are going to get hurt. None of us are going to die, right? That wouldn’t happen… right? This false sense of teenage invincibility breeds toxic imprudence. No, we can’t foresee accidents. No, we can’t guess when we’ll be in a wreck and take a different route. All we can do is our part. We can look both ways. We can stay off of our phones. We can use our seatbelts. We owe it to ourselves and everyone else on the road. Making the road a safer place is a group affair. If 600 students are more conscious of themselves and others on the road, thousands of people run a lower risk of being taken too soon, and that effect only compounds on itself. 

I don’t want to lose a family member. I don’t want to lose a friend. I don’t want to lose a classmate. I don’t want to stand over the casket of somebody I love, looking into eyes that once saw the world, now restricted to the back of cold, black eyelids. I don’t want the value of a text or being on time to outweigh the value of life. I don’t want anyone to go through that hell. I don’t want to kill, and I don’t want to die. I don’t text and drive with the hopes that someone driving the same road as my mom, dad, or brother will do the same. Unfortunately, that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do.

It should be noted that the hearts of this community go out to Ethan Asher, and I, among all others, wish him and his family a speedy recovery in these troubling times.

Respectfully,

Dillon Romero