The following article was published in the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day blog series on Sept. 27, 2018.
As I sit here today reflecting on my 32 years as a Kansas State Trooper, it’s hard to think of a stretch of highway in southwest Kansas that I haven’t seen a fatality accident. Through the years I have had many responsibilities and duties. The duty that I dreaded the most, and that affected me the most, was the responsibility to make death notifications to the next of kin of those who died in fatality crashes.
I have been the messenger that has changed people’s lives forever, and those notifications have changed me forever. I have been hit, called a liar and asked why more times than I care to remember.
I remember every time I have pulled up to the houses of loved ones, put on my campaign hat, practiced what I was going to say, and then the long wait for someone to come to the door. Then comes the moment where the door opens, and the person realizes that there is a State Trooper at their door in the middle of the night, and their world is going to change forever.
I have told friends, and complete strangers that their loved ones would never come home again. I have shed tears for all of them. Some right there, right then. Some, at home alone or in my car. I remember all of them. Some still visit me regularly in person, and some in my dreams.
I remember one of the crashes when I was stationed in Lakin when three teenagers were killed, and I was the first on scene. I remember the helpless feeling of not being able to help the victims. I remember talking to the entire high school where the kids went to school and telling them what I could about the accident, but most of all I remember their parents.
I remember an accident in Finney county that killed four people. I made notification to one person’s parents in Lakin and still remember the faces of his parents today. Those same parents played in a local band for years and played at the Kansas State Fair. I was working the fair when they were playing, and they saw me on a golf cart patrolling the fairgrounds. They called to me on the microphone and said they wanted to play a song for me. They explained to the crowd that I had made the notification of their son’s death and they wanted to play a song for me. That was the day that the big trooper on the golf cart cried his eyes out!
I remember one of my last notifications. I was at home taking my dinner break, when dispatch called me about a fatality crash involving a motorcycle north of Garden City. Dispatch told me the name of the person killed and my heart sank. It was a friend of mine. I went to Garden City High School with him and his wife and had worked with both in different capacities. I visit his final resting place often.
Fatality crashes affect so many people and communities. I have been to many of the funerals of those killed in crashes that I have worked. The families and the communities are forever changed. As I reflect on these crashes I think “only if,” only if circumstances had been different and we had not lost these lives? I ask each of you who reads this to think what they can do to put the brakes on fatalities.
Captain Randy Mosher is the Troop E Commander for the Kansas Highway Patrol.