The term earworm generally refers to a bit of music that’s trapped in your head, playing over and over inside your brain long after you heard the actual song. And that’s just what happened inside my brain today as I worked to weed my impossibly overgrown gardens.
I keep hearing a mother’s voice as she described her young daughter’s journal, filled with life lessons, found two days after her twelve year old was killed in a school bus that was struck by a semi driven by a distracted driver. I hear another mother’s anguish as she described the crash that killed her seven year old sitting in the back seat of her stopped car when a semi slammed into the back of them. And the voices of the young adult children whose parents were killed when the semi hit them head on, going the wrong way down a mountain road. I hear the tremor in a survivor’s voice as she describes being pushed off a bridge by a semi. I hear the anguish in a husband’s voice as he talks about his wife and stepchildren gone in an instant.
I spent five days in Washington D.C. with these and many other families at the Truck Safety Coalition’s biannual conference we call Sorrow to Strength. It’s something of an emergence into grief, but it’s also a place to witness the rebuilding strength that comes from being together with others who have had similar experiences.
We spent Saturday getting to know each other, to offer comfort and hugs and empathetic tears. We laughed together too, over the silly things we miss about our loved ones lost to truck crashes, about the things we used to do but can’t any longer if we are injured survivors.
Sunday we buckled down and learned about the issues, many of which were contributing factors in our own crashes. This year we have four bills in Congress that we support, all focused on making the roads safer for everyone, truck drivers included.
Then, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we went to work, walking Capitol Hill and visiting offices of Senators and Representatives to educate, as well as transportation agencies to discuss the lack of rule making progress.
It was hot, with temperatures in the 90s and a heat index well above that.
It was especially hot during a press conference we held on the Capitol grounds at noon on Tuesday. We were lucky to have three Congressmen introducing two new truck safety bills, and we were glad to support them by standing behind the podium holding pictures of our lost loved ones.
But man, it was hot.
Regardless, our families were troopers and made it to all their assigned meetings, sometimes wringing wet, sometimes red faced, but there. People who never spoke in public before spoke to strangers in Congressional offices and spoke up at DOT meetings even while facing a row of men in suits.
And they did it all because of love.
Their love for those lost is bigger than any fear of the unknown. Bigger then the fear of being uncomfortable or sweaty or lost in the long marble halls of a Senate office building. Their love carried them through the telling of their stories over and over, reliving it each time, each time adding one more scar on top of the thousands of scars already lacerating their hearts.
And at the end of our time together there were more tears and hugs as we said goodbye to our Truck Safety Family, knowing that we’re never truly alone, even on our worst days, because these people have our hearts and our backs. Most of us will stay in touch through email and social media. And though we wish we didn’t have to, we’re ready to do it all again when D.C. calls.
Love conquers all and our loved ones deserve to be remembered, not just for the way they died, or were injured, but for the way they lived. And that’s why I don’t mind the earworms dancing in my brain today.
It’s just another way of remembering them all.
July 20, 2019 at 4:34 pm
Wow, sounds like a great, productive visit. I hope the bills all pass!
July 21, 2019 at 7:08 am
It felt productive, with two bills introduced and some support shown for the other two as well. And my feeling has always been even if all we get done is to connect the volunteer families with each other so that they know they are not alone, well, that’s a win.
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July 20, 2019 at 7:37 pm
Thank you for your hard work!! You make me want to fight even more for all of our loved ones!!!
July 21, 2019 at 7:09 am
Thank YOU so much for coming to the conference and for fighting the good fight to make our roads safer for everyone. It was great meeting you and your husband!
July 21, 2019 at 1:39 am
Thank you for this important work in fighting for change. I believe that it will make a true difference.
July 21, 2019 at 7:10 am
I hope so. I know we touched a lot of people during our five days. At least some of them surely must be thinking about what we told them. Maybe a few will move forward and support our legislation.
July 21, 2019 at 2:09 am
Reading your blog over the past few weeks has made me remember a couple stories of family loss due to truck drivers many years ago… I probably read them in a newspaper. One I recall clearly but even now it hurts my heart to think of that poor family, all dying because of a drowsy truck driver. I see how the trucks follow me so close on the highway, and how they practically run stop lights or signs, nearly colliding with other vehicles. Bravo to you and your friends! I’ll keep praying the bills pass and policies cahnge for the better! Blessings to you, Dawn! ♥
July 21, 2019 at 7:12 am
Thank you Diana. Yes, I think if we stop and think about it we’ve all heard or experienced loss at the hands of an inattentive driver. That’s why what we’re proposing seems so common sense. But of course there’s always the other side. Though to be perfectly honest I don’t think the other side has legs to stand on, not when we’re talking life and death. It’s not that we are against trucking, it’s that we’re supportive of safe trucking. We get there has to be a profit in the business, and we’re willing to pay a little extra for the stuff we buy if that’s what it takes to keep people safe.
July 21, 2019 at 11:07 am
So glad you are a voice for many! Hope you see some improvement! Too bad we don’t have a decent rail system where the trucks could get on and ride and then get off at their destination. Even up here we have obnoxious ttruck traffic and when it snows..oh my it is like a blizzard when you meet them on the road:(
July 21, 2019 at 11:45 pm
Change is slow, sometimes we think we see progress and then we realize it was an illusion. Other times things seem to be moving along and then there’s a step back. We just have to make sure we don’t get discouraged, because over time common sense has to win.
July 21, 2019 at 7:48 pm
We can hear Katie asking why she didn’t get to go, since some other hooman brought their pup.
July 21, 2019 at 11:44 pm
I know….the hotel was dog friendly for no extra charge…the puppy you see in the photo was an emotional service dog. Katie says she’s my emotional service dog so she thinks she should have been invited!
July 23, 2019 at 3:01 pm
Such sad stories. Such warm things growing from those stories. Once again, thanks to all of you for what you do.