Monday, April 6, 2009

Ten Years Later the Memories are Vivid

On April 6, 1999 I was returning from a trip to South Carolina where I had taken my son to visit a college. It was before cell phones became a necessity in my life, so there was no way I could know the tragedy that occurred early that day in Kill Devil Hills. But as soon as I walked in my house late that night my wife greeted me with the nightmare.

Five teenagers on Spring break, crossing the Colington Road intersection were broadsided by a drunk driver. Three were dead on the scene. One was taken to Elizabeth City with serious injuries. He would be the only survivor. The fifth, with much greater injuries, was transported to Norfolk.

The shock was intensified because the girl taken to Norfolk, who would die a few days later, was Shana Lawler, a local girl whose family was in our church. Their pastor, I immediately got back in my car and drove to Norfolk to be with her family.

Ten years have passed already. But the memories for many, including first responders and witnesses is still strong. The story literally shook the Outer Banks community as did the trial that followed, underscoring the problem of drinking and driving. National attention focused on Manteo’s courthouse. The crosses at the intersection remain as a memorial and a testament to a tragedy that should not have happened.

DUI’s remain a severe problem for our local law enforcement and justice system. But there are positive results that have come from that horrific day ten years ago. Both of our northern Dare high schools have active SADD chapters. Through non-profits and local government coalitions there are both educational and treatment options available for those with addictions. Laws have been strengthened and steps continue to be made to curtail driving under the influence with more severe penalties.

But four families deal daily still with an empty space that cannot be filled. Megan, Amanda, Angela and Shana would be 27 year old young adults today. A young woman will live out her days in prison, with no hope for life outside. And Monday many of us will pause to remember. Some things we shouldn’t forget.


Anonymous said...

Won't you please pray for this sweet Christian single mother..

She is facing a very tragic and scary medical decision regarding her unborn baby who was sadly diagnosed with Trisomy 13. Please help us lift her up in prayer. She prayed often for your granddaughter Gwyneth and daughter in law, Tricia so I thought I would mention it to you and give you the opportunity to pray for her too. God bless. xox
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

OOps I forgot to include the link to her blog. Thanks for helping to lift her up during this very difficult time.

danabrown said...

I can't believe it's been 10 years.

Agnes said...

Yes, this story was front page in our Jersey paper. I did not know the Lawlers at that time or that this family would come to be such a wonderful blessing to me and my family.

THampton said...

Ten years... hard to believe. My husband, Jess, and our son, Jacob, lived there in Kill Devil Hills for nine months. God led us to worship with your church body, and we were able to share our daughter, Jordan's, birth with you (on Roxanne Staples birthday, no less!)--and I remember Shana and her mother bringing a meal to our house as I recovered from giving birth. And I remember thinking she was a lovely young woman.

But the thing I remember most is Shana's funeral, as her mother stood with her arms raised to heaven as we sang the song "Shout To the Lord." What an incredible encouragement she was. Thank you for a reminder that will always be with me, a mother with a fierce love for her own children: regardless of what life brings, I need to keep my eyes focused on God. I'm looking forward to meeting you again one day, Shana!

In His Awesome Love--Toni Hampton

Rick Lawrenson said...

Good to hear from you Toni!

Anonymous said...

If you want to read a true testimony of unshattered faith during a time of tragedy.. please read today's post on

God has truly ministered to this young woman. She has become a full time daughter of her Father. What a true testimony of faith. I am inspired!

Allison and Jeffrey Tomasek said...

While it is a definate stretch, I believe some plausible excuses for many crimes can be made for various reasons but there is NEVER a good excuse or reason for Drunk Driving.

Just the thought of it angers me. Thanks for this post and I'm sorry you've had to deal with this tragedy personally, as have I.

I just don't understand why people just don't hand over the keys. But then again, why drink at all?