No. 373 - PLEASE GOD...I'M ONLY 17!

No. 373

One of the newspapers out West that carries this column is the Judith Basis Press published in Stanford, Montana. The publisher, Wes Gibbs, has been kind enough to send me the paper each week so I can get a feel for what is happening in this beautiful part of our country. In a recent issue the following headline caught my attention, A Major Local Effort to Fight a Threat to Teenagers. A subheading continues, Teenage drinking a leading cause in premature death. Judge Wayne Phillips says, lets fight it.
The bottom line is simply this. Teenagers who drink alcohol are far more likely to die early or suffer brain impairment than those teenagers who do not. In a span of only three months, 17 Central Montana youth were involved in serious alcohol related car crashes, and this is a state that does not have a lot of people. This past spring, Judge Phillips and a group of concerned community members and professionals, began a campaign to fight the problem of teenage drinking.
When I read this front page story in the Judith Basis Press, it reminded me of an article I ran across several years ago titled, Please,God, Im only 17. The original article was printed in a Dear Abby column and Margaret Nelson of Skokie, Illinois requested that it be reprinted for the benefit of her 16 year old Grandson, who had just enrolled in a drivers education class.
While the young man in this article may or may not have drinking, any automobile accident involving a young person is no less tragic. It begins: The day I died was an ordinary school day. How I wish I had taken the bus, but I was too cool for the bus. I remember how I wheedled the car out of mom. Special favor, I pleaded. All the kids drive. When the 2:50 bell rang, I threw all my books in the locker. I was free until 8:40 tomorrow morning. I ran to the parking lot, excited at the thought of driving a car and being my own boss. Free!!!
It doesnt matter how the accident happened. I was goofing off, going too fast, taking crazy chances, but I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard a deafening crash and I felt a terrible jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream. Suddenly I awakened. It was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. Then I saw a Doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jangled glass were sticking out all over.
Strange that I couldnt feel anything. Hey, dont pull that sheet over my head-I cant be dead! Im only 17. Ive got a date tonight. Im supposed to grow up and live a wonderful life. I havent lived yet. I cant be dead. Later, I was placed in a drawer. My folks had to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at moms eyes when she faced the most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked like an old man. He told the man in charge, Yes, hes my son.
The funeral was a weird experience. I saw all my relatives and friends walk toward the casket. They passed by one-by-one and looked at me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of the girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked away. Please somebody, wake me up! Get me out of here. Please dont bury me. Im not dead. I have a lot of living to do. I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please dont put me in the ground. I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, Ill be the most careful driver in the whole world. All I want is one more chance. Please, God, Im only 17. Death is final for all of us, but it is tragic when a young persons life is cut short because of an automobile accident that was the result of poor choices. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)