The photo on the front page of the newspaper had pretty much summed up what had happened. A group of high school graduates decided to celebrate their "big day" by hanging out with their friends at a home on a rural roadway.
Like others that have taken similar chances over the years, they went to a party where alcohol was the drink of choice, knowing full well that it wasn't legal -- or smart. To make matters even worse, these students drank to excess, then they decided to get into a car to drive home.
They never made it.
Just a short distance from that party, the driver lost control of the car, which then rolled over at least once. The person behind the wheel and all of his newly graduated friends died in the crash. They were just children who never got a chance to enjoy life to its fullest.
A day later, the local newspaper ran a front-page photo showing several high school students who gathered at the crash site in what became a makeshift memorial.
The somber look on their faces told the story. To a point, this form of solidarity was their way to grieve and reflect on what had just happened.
It's been many years since this incident happened, but the haunted look on those young teens still lingers to this day. Unfortunately, no one seemed to learn the message because the same thing happens every year in communities across the United States.
Here's something to consider. With all the students that had gathered at these makeshift memorials, how many of them could've prevented this tragedy from happening? Why didn't someone provide something other than alcohol at the party? How many were there that could have -- and should have -- discouraged drinking? Who was there to take away the driver's keys when they were obviously unable to safely drive home? Which of these friends could've arranged safe and reliable ways for people to return home?
Unfortunately, too little was done, and it came too late to save these young teens.
We see similar tragedies across the United States where too little was done to save the lives of others that so many people know and love. We see the warning signs of noted celebrities whose lives are entangled in the web of alcohol and drug abuse. When we turn on the television or look at the magazines in the supermarket checkouts, we know these individuals are in danger and run the risk of endangering their lives or the lives of others.
Yet in most cases, we sit back and do nothing. It's the equivalent of watching a train wreck where we can't look away at the spectacle unfolding before us.
And then it happens. A life is lost.
Within hours of the news, we gather by the thousands, if not by the millions, in a show of solidarity to mark the tragedy with tears of sadness that plays out in the national media for days and weeks. Makeshift memorials sprout up out of nowhere, and people gather from across the nation asking, "Why did this happen?"
But perhaps the better question we should be asking is, "Did this death need to happen?"
When news started to surface that someone's life was in danger years prior, did anyone step forward in an attempt to prevent a potential tragedy from happening? How many people that gathered at these large-scale memorials could've united in a show of solidarity and spoke out against the destructive behavior that had claimed someone's life?
Instead of watching the tragedy slowly evolve to the point of self destruction, why didn't someone come forward and say, "enough!"
As noble as these intentions may sound, perhaps the simplest answer to these questions is that we feel that it's not our job to get involved. Instead, we convince ourselves that everything will work out in the end and someone else will take the lead and get these troubled souls the help they desperately need.
And unfortunately, we'll see the same tragedies play out again and again.
Because once again, we'll do too little, and it's be too late.
-- Brian S. Orban