Never again

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By Optic Editorial Board

With the five-year anniversary of one of the great tragedies of our community — an unspeakable tragedy for two Las Vegas families in particular — our thoughts turn to the victims, and to the heart-wrenching outcry: Never again.

Never again should five lives be lost to a drunken driver, as occurred on Nov. 11, 2006, when Paul Gonzales and his wife Renée Collins-Gonzales, and children Alisha Garcia, Jacquelynn Gonzales and Selena Gonzales died when Dana Papst, with a blood-alcohol level of .32, plowed head-on into the minivan they were in. Papst died hours later. Only 15-year-old Arissa Collins, and the family dog, Amor, survived the crash.

Never again should a family have to suffer such a devastating loss, as did Arissa, and Renée Collins-Gonzales’ parents, Ray and Cathy Collins, and Paul Gonzales’ parents, Ralph and Maxine Gonzales, and so many others in their extended families. All because a man with a drinking problem was too inebriated to notice that he was driving the wrong way down Interstate 25.

And never again should survivors have to struggle through the upcoming holidays knowing their loved ones will not be there, will never be there again. At a time when they should be giving thanks, and celebrating life and love and giving, they’re praying for the strength to keep on.

“We survived because of faith,” Ray Collins said. “We ask God for help.”

“I have a hole in my heart that will never be filled,” Maxine Gonzales said.

“It was hard not having my mom there,” Arissa Collins said, remembering her experience in October in the delivery room. “... She wasn’t there to help me.”

We too pray that God will lessen their suffering, and that Arissa’s baby boy, born just last month, will replenish their lives with new meaning.

The meaning for the rest of us should be that drinking and driving must be stopped. But it’s not enough to simply pass stricter laws. We must be proactive in our own personal lives. If you know you’re going to be drinking, make plans to get home without driving yourself there. And if you see a drunk about to drive away, intervene. One way or another. Just don’t let them behind the wheel.

This holiday, let’s all make a promise to ourselves and our loved ones that we will not drink and drive. That’s the best way we can say, never again.