December 20, 2001. I was 21 at the time. I was a full-time college student, worked part time, lived with my parents, and was planning a wedding for July.
I have two brothers and an older half-sister and half-brother. My parents - Frank and Debbie - had just celebrated their 24th anniversary in November. My dad was 51 and was the wastewater Supervisor for the City of Wellington. He had worked there for almost 30 years.
I never thought for a moment that my life could be so drastically changed by someone else’s decision that I had no control over. We were on our way home about a mile north of Wellington when a car driving northbound crossed the center line and hit our car head-on. The crash caused many traumatic injuries. I had several broken bones which left me in the hospital for eight weeks and required months of physical and occupational therapy.
My dad fought for 32 hours after the crash, but in the end lost the battle and died from his injuries. Christmas is supposed to be a time to spend with your family, not meeting with a funeral director and planning a funeral. I was not able to attend the funeral because I was in the hospital and did not fully understand what had happened or that my dad had died until six weeks after the wreck.
The other driver that caused the wreck had been drinking at a local bar. At the time of the wreck his BAC was .30 and he died at the scene when he was ejected from his vehicle. The car he was driving was torn into three pieces.
I have had numerous surgeries and will have to have more. I did get married seven months after the wreck. Chris has been through all of this with me. Chris and I have two children: Ayden who is 9 and Gates who is 5, and they keep us busy. I talk about the wreck and my dad with Ayden and Gates. They should be making memories with my dad instead of me sharing memories of my dad with them.
I would have never imagined that in a split second my life could be completely changed by a man who chose to drink and drive. This is something completely preventable.
It has been 14 years and not a day goes by that I don’t think about my dad and the wreck.
Sheri Baker-Bruster is a volunteer for the Kansas DUI Impact Center and was the Volunteer of the Year for 2016