Back when I was a teenager, one of my closest pals was a kid named Steve Celli.
He was a great kid. Funny. Personable. No ego. Steve and I played a lot of basketball together, and his game matched his personality—smooth, laid-back, casually effective.
Because Steve was blessed with a car, he usually drove places. And, man, Steve went fast. Like, crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy fast. I vividly recall sitting in the front seat, belt strapped, exhilarated and terrified as the speedometer went from 70 to 80, 80 to 90, 90 to 100. Steve took pride in the velocity. And, even though my eyes were often closed, so did I.
That was a long time ago.
In case you missed it, a few days ago five teenagers died in a car accident out here in Orange County, California. It was early Saturday morning, and the 1995 BMW sedan—heading down I-5 South—veered right off the freeway, up an embankment and onto a concrete barrier. The car was engulfed in flames, and five passengers (all high school students) died.
The only person who lived was the driver. His name is Bradley Morales. He’s 16. He was found outside the car, and suffered a skull fracture and an epidural hematoma.
He does not have a driver’s license.
I am furious. Beyond furious. The irresponsibility that accompanies youth is something that never ceases. When we’re teenagers, we think we’re invulnerable and invincible. Or, perhaps, we don’t consider invulnerability and invincibility at all. We just go about our days cocooned in a happy bubble, concerned with grades and dating and One Direction and such.
When I get past my anger, though, I am—truly—more sad. I’m saddened for the children who perished, of course. But I’m also heartbroken for Bradley Morales, who will carry this with him forever. There is no escape. There is no departure. Whether he serves time or not, he will forever walk with the haunting knowledge that, one horrible night, he made a decision that completed the lives of five innocents. No matter what he finds—family, God, love, glee—it will all be covered in a thick wool cloak. His life hasn’t ended, but, in many ways, his happiness has.
That is crushing.