JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Gina Naclerio and lost youth

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The other day a writer I’m friends with told me about a car accident involving a teenage boy he knows. The kid and his pal were both drunk, both high. I’m not sure which one was behind the wheel, but their car slammed into an oncoming vehicle. Everyone lived, but neither kid was wearing a seat belt, and the injuries were severe.

Having heard this, I immediately thought of the late Gina Naclerio, a former classmate of mine at Mahopac High School who was killed in an automobile accident 13 years ago. Gina was a junior when I was a senior. We were little beyond hall-passing friends—Hi. What’s up? How’s it going?—though she dated someone I was pretty close to. Gina was one of those girls you had to like. She was perky. Friendly. Outgoing. Always quick with a smile. Never rude or dismissive. I liked her a lot, though once I graduated I never spoke with her again.

Then, in the early hours of November 3, 1996, her life ended. She was 23-years old; a passenger in a Trans Am going too fast, driven by a guy who would later be charged with reckless driving, speeding, and driving while intoxicated. The accident took place in my hometown, right in front of the shopping plaza where I once stocked shelves at CVS. I was certainly heartbroken, but, more than anything, unnerved. So young. So vibrant. So …

I’m not really sure what the point of this post is, other than I hate drunk drivers, and I hope those who escape with their lives know how friggin’ fortunate they are; how unfair it is, in a sense, to those who no longer exist because someone was dumb enough to get behind the wheel after a hard night of partying.

I think of Gina once or twice a year; about her family; about youth lost and potential unmet. I think about the husband she never married; about the children she never had; about Christmas and Easter and birthday parties and vacations to faraway places.

And I think of how shameful it is.

How she should still be here.

Living.