Don’t hide from ‘Every 15 Minutes’

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Josh Callan July 16, 1985 to December 5, 2012

Josh Callan July 16, 1985 to December 5, 2012

Every 15 minutes a first responder faces a nightmare, every 15 minutes the coroner dials a phone, every 15 minutes a parent realizes their worst nightmare because every 15 minutes somebody’s child, husband, father, mother or wife is killed in an alcohol/drug-related car accident.

You are waiting for your son or daughter to return from a night out with friends. Curfew is 1 a.m. and you have comfortably fallen asleep, watching television, waiting with no worries; you’ve got a good kid.

You’re awakened at midnight by the ringing of the phone but you didn’t catch it in time to answer. The call came in quite late from an unidentified number. A familiar and uncomfortable feeling begins in the pit of your stomach; it is still slight at this point so you try to ignore it. Your mind is foggy, not yet alert. You know that your child is not home, but it’s before curfew so you’re not really worried, maybe it’s a wrong number. You’ve got the contact information for all the friends your child has gone out with; it’s not one of them.

You put the phone down and try to resume watching television but that feeling keeps slightly nagging at you yet you’re still unaware of the meaning.

You decide to call the number; maybe it has something to do with your son or daughter. You’re still sure your child is fine; you’ve got a good kid, responsible; he/she gets good grades, doesn’t do drugs, and knows right from wrong… but maybe not.

The phone on the other end rings for what seems like an eternity, someone picks up and you will forever be haunted by that one single moment when a stranger’s voice on the other end answers, “Clark County Coroner’s Office.” You identify yourself and they say, “Hold on please.” You hold, your heart is beating, that feeling is making you want to vomit and you pray that the next words you hear aren’t, “City Morgue” but they are, and they have your child. You won’t hear anything else. The words coming from the coroner’s mouth are just noises. Your heart is breaking. It feels like the weight of an elephant is sitting on your chest, crushing your heart, you can’t breathe. Every fiber of your being screams “NO, please let this be a mistake,” but it isn’t. You’ll pray hard, “Please, let me wake up from this nightmare,” but you won’t.

The following days, months and years filled with the never ending question and thought, “What if…?” “If I had only…” The words and thoughts that are a lesson in futility and as easily answered as, “How big is the universe?” These are questions that hold no true meaning after the death of your child because you can never undo what has already been done. The thoughts of what you could have or should have done have come too late.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare and it’s just happened to you. Hold on to your memories; they will become more precious than gold.

The last conversation, hopefully, went something like:

Parent: “Where are you going? What will you be doing? Who will you be with? Don’t forget curfew. I love you, be careful.”

Child: “Don’t worry mom/dad, we will,” and if it wasn’t…

That last conversation, the one you’ve had, perhaps so many times before, will quickly become the one memory that will forever stand out in your mind; you’ll want it to be a pleasant one.

Your remaining years are filled with thoughts of the shattered hopes and dreams of what could have been for your child.

The pain never goes away. You will learn to cope and you’ll go on like you’re fine. Most of the time you will be, but there will always be something, that one song, a friend’s memory or mention of your child, somebody’s sympathy that knocks you for a loop, out of the blue, and the pain comes back like a shot to your heart, so hard it takes your breath away, even years later.

The memories, the questions and the never ending, gut wrenching, pain are what you will simply have to learn to cope with unless you do something to prevent it now because in the time it took you to read this, and dry your eyes, somebody’s child just died.

The Mesquite Police, Mesquite Fire and Safety, Virgin Valley High School teachers and numerous other Public Service entities do not want this scenario to be one that describes any day in your life and they feel that awareness is the key to prevention because scenarios like the one described above, drunk driving or texting while driving related accidents, are 100% preventable.

The phone call from above was true, it’s my story. My son did not die in a car accident, he was the victim of an accidental drug related death and among the personal items he was wearing which got returned to me was a wrist band with the words, “Don’t text and drive.” If his message saves one life, it’s worth telling the story and preventing you getting this call because your child was involved in a drunk/drug/texting while driving accident.

Comments

  1. Paul Benedict says:

    Teri,
    I know that when you wrote this article, there were tears in your eyes. There are tears in mine as I read it.

    I wish that every young person could read these words, really read them, and understand how deeply and permanently a young death affects parents, loved ones, and friends. The tears never go away.

    Don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive, don’t do anything stupid in the car, don’t even get in the car with someone who does. Be the one to call your parent: “Please come and get me”.

    And parents, if your child asks for help, give it – immediately. Don’t make excuses, don’t accuse, don’t blame. Help your child. Work out the details later if you must, but help your child now.

  2. David Zeleniak says:

    Teri, thank you for sharing such an important message through your deeply personal experience which I’m sure was challenging, yet important to write.

    I can’t begin to imagine the moment or moments that followed your call, but you captured the emotions, feelings and parental agony so well that, as Paul Benedict wrote, “I wish that every young person could read these words”. Doing so would truly change someone’s life at the very least and perhaps save it. Thanks, Paul.

    One never thinks of enduring the ever-present pain and memories as you described. When I’ve met you at various functions in town, you have a warm smile and welcoming demeanor that reflects strength and a strong sense of commitment to purpose. After reading the heartfelt details in your story, you have become my inspiration.

    Teri, I will share this story and “Pray it Forward” as one of those eternal life lessons to hold near and dear to ones heart. I’m proud to know you and MLN is incredibly fortunate to have someone with the depth of character you possess. – Dave Z

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