On April 6, 1999 my son and I were driving back from North Greenville College in South Carolina. He was a senior in high school, and the soccer coach at NGC (now University) invited him to come and visit, with the prospect of a spot on their team. From the Outer Banks, as I recall, it was about a 9 hour drive. And in 1999 cell phones were a fairly new thing. My wife had one in her car, but I did not, and frankly didn't want one.
As we arrived home that night about 11:00 we were met with the most horrific news. One of the teens in our church, Shana Lawler, and four of her friends (on Spring break) were broadsided by a speeding SUV as it ran a red light. Three of the friends died on the scene. The fourth was transported to a hospital an hour away with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries. He would survive. Shana survived the crash, but with apparent brain injuries and was flown to our closest trauma center in Norfolk, VA.
I showered, changed, got back into my little red car and drove the 75 or so miles to the hospital where I found her parents in the waiting room. One sister, a high school senior, was with friends out of town. She was on her way back. The other sister, a graduate student at UNC was living in Durham. The next day their dad and I drove to meet her, tell her the news and bring her back to Norfolk.
Within a week Shana died of her injuries. I was with the family as they sang, prayed and said goodbyes just before she was taken off of life support. I'm still brought to tears by the memories. A few days later I would preach her funeral to a packed church auditorium, mostly filled with other high school students, inviting them to put their faith in the Jesus Shana knew as Savior.
Our community was both brought to our knees in pain and at the same time polarized as we sought to both seek justice and mercy. Those are not easy partners. Someone erected 4 crosses at the intersection, which stood for many years, memorializing the girls and reminding every driver passing by that alcohol and driving are a dangerous, life-altering mix.
Now, eighteen years have passed. The four girls would be 35. Most of the students in their schools today were even born in 1999. The woman who killed them while driving intoxicated is serving four consecutive terms for second-degree murder.
And many of us have not forgotten. Certainly the survivors - the parents, siblings, friends and the one young man who lived through it - will never forget. The impaired driver who is in prison for the rest of her life won't forget, nor will her friends and family. The first responders (I know some of them) have images indelibly imprinted in their brains.
So, I remember this date with this somber reminder of the brokenness that exists in this world. And I pray, "Thy Kingdom come".