How a Truck Crash Changed the Month of May; or What Happens When Nobody Takes Responsibility?

I used to love May; it was my favorite month with moderate temperatures in my home state of Michigan–freshly-green growth and the sweet fragrance of blossoming trees.

Not so much anymore. When an underride truck crash, on May 4, 2013, robbed my two youngest daughters of life, my pleasure in the month of May quickly dissipated.

And the problem is that it is not just that day–when AnnaLeah died–but the days following May 4 as I learned of her death and recovered in a hospital two hours away from where Mary lay dying in another hospital and our family was scattered around the country struggling to grapple with the terrible tragedy we faced.

Then there came the day when Mary died: May 8, followed by days of planning funerals and headstones and travel arrangements–struggling to strive for normalcy in the celebration of four college graduations and a wedding. We too-quickly faced what would have been AnnaLeah’s 18th birthday on May 15, and not so many days later we gathered together, on May 18, for the first of two funerals for the girls–this time in Midland, Texas.

We went home for the first time since the crash on May 19 –a desolate, empty feeling when we arrived at the house they had left behind expecting to return themselves at about that time, their belongings awaiting the arrival that never happened.

The rest of the month was the beginning of learning to live without them and planning for their second funeral in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on June 8. So, basically, the month has become one reminder after another of what we have lost. Is is any wonder that I no longer look forward to May?

Today for example, is May 2, but it is also the first Saturday in May, which is the day of the week when we started out on our fateful road trip to Texas from North Carolina which ended abruptly (for AnnaLeah and Mary) in Georgia. Even this day has me in turmoil.

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The grief is complicated by the many things which I have learned about highway safety and the growing awareness that, way too often, nobody really takes responsibility for the countless and potentially-preventable deaths which occur on the roads of our country year after year.

Until that May, I had never heard of an underride crash–too often due to an underride guard that did not prevent a car from riding under a truck and resulting in horrific injuries and deaths. Recently I have read many reports of the problems with defective cars and the fatal crashes which have occurred as a result. Who takes responsibility for these deaths? And when will they come to an end?

For example, here is a report on recent activity with GM recalls:

“. . . the company took its taxpayer-funded bailout agreement and turned it around on millions of consumers unlucky enough to own compact cars with ignition switch defects who had accidents before July 10, 2009, the date when the agreement became effective. Invoking a liability shield negotiated by the Obama administration,GM won a ruling from a bankruptcy judge that is now on appeal, avoiding billions in damages for injuries, deaths, and the lost resale values of vehicles with the defect. The judge took the view that when the ‘old GM’ went bankrupt, the ‘new GM’ got a fresh start, even though all but 15 of the executives and managers involved in the ignition switch fiasco remain ensconced in the company’s iconic skyscraper in Detroit. GM won this counter-intuitive relief even though a report it commissioned from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas revealed that senior executives knew about the problem as early as 2005 but dragged their feet on notifying consumers until 2014. ‘Although everyone had responsibility to fix the problem, nobody took responsibility,’ he wrote.”

Why Not Jail? makes a compelling argument for criminal prosecutions of executives who tolerate noncompliance and endanger public health and the environment.’”

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