If you follow my blog, you’re probably aware a young relative of mine, Daniel T. ‘Danny’ DeBacker Jr.., was recently killed along with his friend, Andy Adams, by another young man, Kai Miller, who was driving under the influence of alcohol. This happened at the intersection of Twelfth and Brady in Davenport, IA, on Sept. 28, 2014. I can’t get it out of my mind. Perhaps it’s because I’m an empty-nester now and all who were involved in the accident were around the same age as my children (my youngest will turn 20 on the same day as Danny’s funeral). Perhaps it’s because I’m a little anxious now that my children live several hours away and I can’t help but to think back on all the stupid things I did when I was that age. I was lucky to live through it, but as you can see from this incident, not everyone does.
There were four young men involved in that horrific crash. Two died (Danny and Andy), one was seriously injured (Kaleb Hougland), and one is incarcerated in the county jail, Kai Miller. All of these young men are forever changed by this brief moment in time. I find myself sympathizing with all those whose lives are forever changed by this senseless accident. I find myself wondering hypothetically, what if that was me? What if I was involved in such an incident? What if one of these young men was my child?
I think about young Danny and Andy who died in the crash. It is such a shame they died so young and our hearts ache because we will miss them so badly. But Danny and Andy died with honor. Their lives are celebrated and remembered with great affection and dignity. Few, though they live much longer, will impact so many lives in a positive way. Few of us will be remembered with such fond memories and affection. Yes, they died young, but they died with dignity and practically local celebrities. Their pain is over, and even for the loved ones left behind who are overcome with grief, there has to be some sense of solace from the fact that at least they died with dignity. There is no shame in that.
Kaleb has not been released from the hospital. I believe his life is out of danger, but his recovery will be long and treacherous. I imagine his physical injuries will heal long before his emotional injuries. I can only imagine what the years will be like ahead for Kaleb as he deals with all the aftermath of the accident. But he has his life before him and perhaps this accident will become a stepping stone for which he can get over and gleam something good from it.
Of all the young men, I have the most pity for Kai Miller. He is only 23 yrs old, he is now held responsible for 3 deaths. He killed an 18 yr old boy about 4 years ago when he lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree. My daughter has a friend who knows Kai personally. According to her, the one killed was Kai’s best friend, and Kai was so overcome with remorse that he turned to alcohol to relieve the pain: never a good thing. Now Kai is facing charges for the vehicular homicide of Danny and Andy. Kai now faces severe prison time, but prison will only destroy him worse. At the same time, it’s not exactly prudent to just release him and give him the chance to kill others.
I feel for Kai’s situation. Maybe he’s just a scumbag who doesn’t have any remorse for the lives he has destroyed, but that is hard for me to imagine. If he has any sense of decency at all, he would have to be suffering unspeakable pain and misery. What would it be like if he was my child? What if I loved this destroyer of life, just as much as the other parents love their kids?
I relate to Kai more than the others. I was never a basketball hero. I certainly wasn’t popular in school. If I died at that age, I don’t know if anyone outside of the family would have even really noticed. The so called friends I had would probably have used my death as just another excuse to get drunk and high figuring that was the way I wanted to be remembered. That’s what I did, when I was a kid. It’s ironic that the intersection of the accident is where my friends and I used to meet the local drug dealer. I lived in a group home just about 2 blocks away. That neighborhood was my old stomping ground. That is till I got kicked out of the group home and eventually went to jail for stealing a beer truck.
I relate to Kai. Like so many other young people, I was about fast cars, loose women, and of course partying it up. We weren’t hurting anybody, right? I mean who doesn’t enjoy a good time? Who doesn’t get a little reckless with our driving? Not once did it ever cross my mind, somebody could get hurt or killed. It was all about having a good time. Isn’t that why so many people drink? Most people like to drink; yet, we have nothing but disdain for those who drink and drive. But how many of us who drink can honestly maintain that we never sat behind the wheel of a vehicle when we were legally impaired?
When I was about 18, I stopped over at a friend’s house. I was driving my mother’s car at the time which was a privilege I didn’t take lightly. I had no intention of getting drunk, nor did I think I was drunk when I left his house. We were doing shots of Tequila (which I had never drank before), but I remember leaving his house with no sign of inebriation. That is all I remember. I was in an accident, but I don’t remember it. I could have killed somebody, but I didn’t. I was later charged with a hit and run, but there were no injuries; just a whole lot of shame. I could hardly look my mother in the eye after that for a number of years, and I left home as soon as possible. I still can’t think of the event without crying. But I didn’t learn.
I would get two DUI’s when I was in the Marine Corps. That was 1987. I returned from oversees in December 1986 and bought a car in January. When I bought it, I remember saying I would never drive after I had been drinking. I meant it. The only thing I didn’t count on is that after you have a few drinks, you don’t think like a sober person. Nobody who is drunk thinks they are too drunk to drive. YOUR THINKING IS IMPAIRED!!! You are not being logical; you are being stupid; not because you didn’t give your keys away, but because you decided to impair your thinking in the first place. I got one DUI in February a second one in April. That’s when I finally figured out the problem; and I would be considered a fast learner when it comes to drugs and alcohol. I was 22 yrs old when I realized that I could not control alcohol or drugs and we parted ways forever.
Today, it is hard for me to understand the attraction to such a deadly substance. I see nothing good coming from it. I know lots of people who control it just fine, but I will forever maintain the world would be so much better without this menace to society. It not only kills thousands of people ever year, it butchers the lives of multitudes of others. Our prisons would be virtually empty if you took away those who committed crimes under the direct influence of drugs and alcohol. We could completely eliminate the country’s deficit with the amount of money wasted on dealing with problems associated with alcohol and substance abuse.
These menaces are here to stay. We tried to outlaw alcohol, but it only made the problem worse. We have outlawed most streets drugs, but that hasn’t helped. It’s like we are so blinded, we can’t seem to see the beast as he stands there devouring us. It truly makes me SICK! All the lives; young lives are wasted.
Still we have to drink. Many of you can control it, and it is not a problem FOR YOU. It’s your right, and I really can’t fault you if you choose to drink responsibly, but I want you to realize some people can’t do that. I’m one of them. I don’t think I ever could control it. It’s like trying to eat just one potato chip. Those of us who drink responsibly are influencing those who can’t. It’s a personal choice, but it’s hard for me to understand our attraction to something that is killing us as a society.
The entire time I have been a parent, our home has been alcohol free unless used for medicinal purposes. I have tried to instill the dangers of this substance in my children since the moment they could talk and understand. But dad you are the exception. Just because you can’t control it, doesn’t mean I can’t. Whereas this is true, why dance with the demons? Why flirt with disaster? I’m happy to say that my children are not heavy drinkers if they even drink at all. However, I don’t think they understand why I am so adamant about the issue. Well, add this accident to the thousands of needless others that have occurred during my lifetime with people I have known, and maybe, just maybe it will start to sink in.
To me Kai Miller is another victim of the real killer. He is still responsible for his choices and will have to endure the consequences for those choices. But his life has been destroyed by the true killer just as much, if not more so, than all the others in the accident. They will more than likely lock Kai up for a long time, but the real killer as far as I’m concerned is still on the loose. Chances are it’s very close to each of us and we don’t even know it.