Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Thank you

I can’t let another day go by without sending out a great big THANK YOU to all of you that supported my Giving Tuesday Facebook fundraiser for the Truck Safety Coalition. Monetary donations, as well as verbal and written support, all made my day. Sometimes I feel that working to make our roads safer is too hard, maybe even impossible, and I feel lonely in the fight. But you proved to me, once again, that I’m not alone, and that many people care about the victims and their families as well as the underlying purpose.

I started out with a goal of raising $1,000, the same amount I struggled to raise last year. I put the fundraiser up the evening before Giving Tuesday because I was afraid I’d have technical problems trying to do it early Tuesday. I don’t know why I assume things won’t go as planned, but I didn’t have any trouble getting the page to work, and by late evening I was already close to goal.

Well. I couldn’t start Giving Tuesday with only a couple hundred dollars to raise all day, so I upped the goal to $1200, and was quickly nearing that goal too. So I boosted it again to $1500 and by afternoon was slightly over. It felt kind of like cheating to raise it again, but I did, one last time, to $2000 and several more friends helped me make that final goal. I should have just started at $2000, but that felt so far out of the realm of reality, and I was afraid of failure.

Lesson learned.

So thank you. You give me renewed hope that the world can be a pretty wonderful place, and people are kind and compassionate and generous. You gave what you could, and it was, as a blogger friend of mine often says, enough.

Thank you.


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Going live on Giving Tuesday

We’re going live tomorrow! I’ve rarely done any live work on Facebook before, but tomorrow is the day! The Truck Safety Coalition will be featuring volunteers, board members and staff in short presentations and interviews every hour on the hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m tomorrow. You can see it all on their Facebook page.

I’m live at 10:00 a.m. I’ve been practicing, but you never know how it will really go. I’m not sure I can get through it without crying, so I may end up doing an abbreviated version. Or maybe tears are just what we need for people to realize how important safety is for us all.

Anyway.

Below is what I’m planning to say. What actually comes out of my mouth tomorrow may be completely different.

Hey everybody!  My name is Dawn King.  I’ve been a volunteer with the Truck Safety Coalition for more than 15 years.  When people first hear me talk about volunteering with TSC they assume I’m a retired truck driver or something. 

But that’s not it.

I volunteer with TSC to honor my dad.  Some of you know that he was killed a couple days before Christmas back in 2004 when he was driving to the airport to catch a flight, planning to spend the holidays with family.

He was on the interstate, early in the morning of December 23rd when he came upon a small crash.  He would  have called it a fender bender.  Police, ambulance and fire trucks were already on the scene, and traffic was slowly being directed around the crash. 

Dad was in back of a semi, and  both of them, along with most of  the rest of traffic, managed to slow down and move into the left lane.  But the semi behind dad never saw the slowed traffic.  He never saw all those revolving emergency lights on that dark early morning.  The semi behind dad slammed into him with the cruise control still engaged.  Dad’s vehicle was pushed into the semi ahead of him, then spun out into the median.  Dad was partially ejected through a rear window even though he was wearing his seatbelt. 

They say he died instantly. 

What should have been a joyous time of year turned into tragedy and my family’s lives were changed forever.  Dad was the trunk of our family tree, our last living parent.  Without him I and my 3 siblings felt lost.   We had no idea what we should do next, where we should turn.

And then someone searching randomly on the internet came across the Truck Safety Coalition and I called them asking for advice.   And that’s where it all began.

TSC helped connect us to an attorney who in turn told me the things I needed to do immediately to protect our interests.  That was a big first step.  And the further we got into the process the more I realized how huge the problems are in the trucking industry.  How often the families who are injured or killed are considered just another cost of doing business.

Every one of my siblings said they wanted to do something, to make sure no one ever had to go through the pain we were experiencing.  And volunteering for this organization is how we’re making a difference. 

Volunteering for TSC changed my life, it gave me a place to put my anger and my grief.   It gave me the opportunity to help other people.  To make positive change.  It gave me a direction.

We know we won’t stop all crashes.  We know change is slow and difficult.  But every step we make toward protecting both the motoring public AND the drivers of these trucks saves someone an injury, saves a life, keeps a family together.  Even though we can’t identify specific individuals who weren’t involved in a crash because , for example, a double 33 foot trailer wasn’t on their highway,  we know that working to keep longer double 33 foot trailers off many of  our roads  has saved lives.

The Truck Safety Coalition was there when my family needed it.  And we want to make sure they continue to be there for all the families, especially the new families far into the future.  People are beginning their long treks through grief and pain every single year.  Approximately 5,000 people die each year in crashes with commercial trucks.  Over 150,000 are injured! 

You never think it will happen to you or your family until it does. 

It takes money to keep an organization afloat.  We can’t let our families down, those new faces, so raw with grief can’t be ignored.  We have to raise enough money to keep talking in Washington, and to keep supporting the people who are affected by these crashes.

We need your help. 

Next spring we’ll be inviting families to Washington, to give them and their loved ones a voice on Capitol Hill.   It’s a conference called Sorrow to Strength which we do every other year.  The families, particularly the new families, come to the conference filled with sorrow, and through their time together with other families who have gone through similar experiences, they  learn more about the issues, and about themselves. 

We see people come the first day barely able to speak their story, who leave after four days with new confidence, strength and commitment, people who have found their voices.

We are all stronger than we ever thought we could be. 

We need money to be able to do that.  If you’re interested, there are a number of scholarships that need funding.  Every dollar helps.  You can learn more about the conference and the specific needs at our website, trucksafety.org, under the tab “Sorrow to Strength.”

And, at an every day level, we need funds to have someone answer the phone when a new family calls for help.

We need funds to attend meetings with the agencies that make the rules that govern the trucking industry, to make certain that safety is always involved in any decision.

We need funds for someone to reach out to families soon after the crash, to make sure they know we’re here.

There are so many things that need to be done to meet our duel mission of supporting families and affecting change.  And they all require funding.

Truck Safety affects everyone.  We all share the roads with commercial trucks.  We are all at risk.  Help us keep educating, keep supporting, keep pushing for change.

Please donate.  You’ll find my page on Facebook or you can go to the Truck Safety Coalition Facebook page and donate there. 

And if YOU or your family or friends have been in a crash with a commercial truck, and you’d like to join us in our work, or you want some advice, or just need to connect with other people with a similar experience, please contact us.

You can find out more about our organization and how to reach us at trucksafety.org.

If you knew my dad you know he wouldn’t have been quiet if one of his kids had been killed that December morning. 

I can’t be quiet either.

I would be grateful if you would find it in your heart to donate so we can continue this important work.

 Thank you in advance.


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Heads up, Giving Tuesday is next week!

Giving Tuesday is November 30th, which is one week from today.

In case you’re not familiar with that concept, it’s a day where people use Facebook to showcase their favorite nonprofits, then ask their friends and family to donate, through a button on their Facebook post, in order to raise money for their good causes.

Long before he was a dad.

Most of you know I’m on the board of CRASH, which is part of the Truck Safety Coalition. CRASH stands for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. We work, alongside P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers) to make legislative and rule changes focusing on trucks driving with us on our nation’s roads.

I do this in honor of my dad, who was killed December 23, 2004 by a tired trucker who drove all night to get a load of electronics to retail outlets in time for holiday shopping. He fell asleep an hour from his destination, while still driving. Profits overroad safety that early morning, and my dad paid the ultimate price.

A young man with dreams.

CRASH and P.A.T.T. watch the hours of service rules and push back when industry tries to get those extended. We don’t always win, but we do some of the time, and we know that when we win fewer people die. We are also working on getting stronger rear underride guards, automatic emergency braking on all trucks, increased minimum liability insurance for all commercial trucks, and we’re fighting against teen drivers being allowed to drive across the country.

CRASH and P.A.T.T. also support the families of those killed or injured in a crash with a commercial truck. Nearly 5,000 people die every single year, and over 100,000 are injured. The loss of life has gone up 45% since 2009. Profits over safety makes me so angry.

He was in the Army too.

There’s more, but details aren’t the point of this post. The point is that next Tuesday I’ll be asking friends and family to donate to CRASH. We’re making it easy, over on Facebook, and I hope you’ll consider chipping in. I know you have lots of places you support, and I’d be honored if you decide to add CRASH to your list of nonprofits deserving your attention.

And then he was a dad.

Last year I took a leap of faith and set my goal at $1,000, way over my usual effort of $250. I didn’t really think I could raise that much, but I was surprised and humbled when so many friends donated. A few dollars here, a few dollars there, and, late in the afternoon, I was close to my goal. And then a special friend made the effort to get me over the top.

I almost cried.

Reading the Sunday comics to his girls.

These days I work with families whose crashes are recent; their grief is so raw. It hurts me to the core, but it’s necessary work. And in order for us to keep working with them, to keep giving them support, to continue to include them in our truck safety family, we need financial support. It’s not easy to ask, but I need to.

I hope you will be in a position to help. One week from today. Next Tuesday you’ll find me on Facebook all day.

The father of the bride.

Regardless of what you decide, I appreicate all the support you’ve given me in the years since dad was killed. It will be 17 years next month, though it feels like yesterday.

I miss him every day. All of this is in his honor.

He’s on a different adventure now.


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Giving Tuesday thanks

Here it is Friday already and I haven’t been back to thank so many of you for your support of my Giving Tuesday Facebook fundraiser.

As you may remember I was raising funds for CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) which is a 501c3 under the umbrella of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC). I’m a volunteer with them, and have been since dad was killed December 23, 2004 by a tired semi driver who failed to see traffic stopped ahead of him.

Anyway, giving Tuesday is a way for people to easily donate to nonprofits and many of you donated to mine, and I can’t thank you enough.

This year we had two anonymous donors each willing to match the first $10,000 we raised, so it was very important that collectively we get to that magic mark, and we did! We actually raised about $13,000, so all in all the organizations, between CRASH and P.A.T.T (Parents Against Tired Trucking, the other organization under the TSC umbrella) raised $33,000.

This is much more than we’ve ever been able to raise on this platform before, and that’s due to our First Reponse Coordinator getting behind the effort, organizing us and cheering us on. Next year we hope to have even more volunteers put up their own fundraiser on Giving Tuesday so that we can raise even more.

By maintaining our fundraisers, talking about them throughout the day (I even did a live interview), changing the images at the top, sharing it often, we not only kept ourselves front and center, but we reenergized our donor base and our volunteers.

Now we’re ready to start work — there is much to be done, and with your help we’ll be able to move forward, helping more people, one family at a time. If you weren’t able to help, that’s OK, I appreciate your emotional support as much as your monetary support. I know you guys have my back and that counts more than you can ever know.

Again, thank you all so much.


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So about that spunky little bird

A few of you are wondering, still, what the story is about that spunky little bird you saw in a previous post.

He was a quick little painting to do, all wet paint on wet paint running together. I really liked him, and didn’t mail him off right away, though I did post him on Facebook saying something like “I think he’s ready to fly.” He got a lot of comments, naturally, as he is very very cute.

I considered keeping him, he made me smile so much, but he was created to fly off to a forever home so eventually I scrolled through my address book and chose a place for him to land.

His new mom is a member of my Truck Safety family. Her son and her ex-husband were killed when the car they were in was rear ended by a semi a few years ago. She’s using her unrelenting grief to work with the Truck Safety Coalition as we try to make safety a priority.

I thought of her because she’s spunky too. She’s not a very big person, but she’s so strong and eloquent and unafraid to make waves. She’s just the kind of spark we need and I so appreciate her.

So I wrote a note on the back of the painting saying he reminded me of her and mailed him off. A few days later I received a Facebook message from her, thanking me for the gift of her little bird and telling me this story:

She noticed ‘her’ bird on my Facebook post, and said, aloud, “Oh I want you little bird,” but she didn’t comment on the post. She figured I had made him for someone, and had already decided where he was going.

But she connected with him.

So she squealed when she opened the unexpected envelope and the little bird hopped out. Her husband wanted to know what was up…and she told him I had sent her the bird she’d wanted. He figured she had asked me if she could have him. But she hadn’t.

No, she never commented on him at all, I randomly picked her name out of all the names in my address book. I think this little bird was destined to find his forever home with this mom. I think he was meant to help her her with her unbearable sadness.

And I don’t believe it was a coincidence.

Do you?


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Speaking up for safety

What would you do if someone called you on a Thursday and asked you to testify before a Senate subcommittee the next Tuesday? What if it was about something important, something close to your heart? What if the things that needed to be said wouldn’t be heard unless you went?

These people, and thousands more like them, are important.

Then of course you’d gather up your courage and go! So I did,

Time to go to work.

Yesterday, coincidentally on my dad’s 91st birthday, I testified before the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety about the State of Trucking. I wasn’t alone, there was also representation from the American Trucking Association, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers, the Livestock Marketing Association, and the State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The other guys. And me.

If you’ve ever watched a Senate hearing on TV you’ll know what it was like.

The Senators all sit elevated with big chairs. The witnesses sit together at a long table down below in front of microphones that have little clocks in them to time how long you’re speaking. And you have to remember to turn your microphone on before you begin. And especially to turn it off after you’re finished with what you want them to hear.

They ask questions from an elevated advantage.

It was an honor to be asked, but of course I was nervous. Still, the Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition wrote the first draft of my comments, and I edited it using words that I could get my mouth around. Then another board member helped me shave the speech down to five minutes and punch it up to gain attention.

The Hart Senate Office Building, where the hearing took place.

I practiced saying it out loud for hours on Monday, in front of my husband, the Executive Director and the board member. That helped a lot. And of course early Tuesday morning, while my husband was in the shower I spoke it aloud a couple times too.

A true statement.

Tuesday we arrived at the Senate Office Building early, to meet with one of my Senators who was going to introduce me at the hearing. Senator Peters is very supportive of safety technology and spoke eloquently about my work. I was the only witness to get an introduction like that and I appreciate him so much.

Meeting with Senator Peters before the hearing.

I got to speak first at the hearing, which was helpful, not to have to wait and listen to the other four speak. Though maybe I would have adjusted my talk to object to some of what they said if I had heard them first. But I doubt it. My oral testimony already countered most items they were asking for.

I think I was disagreeing with something.

Turns out teen drivers and allowing cattle haulers exemptions from the hours of service rules were the big topics, and of course I oppose both of those. But the Senators that agree with these ideas didn’t really want to hear opposition, so only one question was directed at me, and I was hard pressed to get any other thoughts in without them throwing me a question.

Sometimes it’s hard to get people to focus on what’s important.

A hearing is not a debate, you’re not allowed to interrupt other speakers, though one Senator, thankfully, did ask, at the end of her questioning if any of us had anything else to add, and of course I did. And toward the end I did just butt in on the last Senator and make a point disagreeing with the ATA representative about teen drivers, and thankfully was then backed up by the Independent Operators representative because they don’t want teen drivers either.

And that’s how the hearing ended, so I guess we got the last word, at least on one topic.

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to speak up for safety. I wasn’t heard on as many topics as I was prepared for because many Senators on our side of safety didn’t bother to attend. And that’s a shame. There can’t be a complete discussion unless both sides come to the table. I may not be speaking at the next hearing, but I’ll be on the phone urging the subcommittee members to show up that’s for sure.

In order to make meaningful change everybody has to work together.

And that’s the lesson I leave you with. If you care deeply about a topic, any topic, and you have an opportunity to share that passion, don’t be afraid. Do the thing that scares you, make sure you’re heard.

Change is hard, sometimes it’s scary, but it’s always worth the effort.

I got lots of support from my husband too.


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Truck safety earworms

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.

With Congresswoman Norton

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.

Day 1 on the Hill, visiting my Representative.

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.

Before the press conference.

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.

Representative Garcia, from Illinois, introduced the new bill to increase minimum insurance.

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.

Things in Washington move with great deliberation.

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.

Kate talks about the multiple surgeries, costing millions, that her son needed after his crash.

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.

Day 2, with one of my Senators who has cosponsored one of our bills.

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.

A crash survivor being interviewed after the press conference.

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.

Some of my Truck Safety family, ready to generate some change.

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.

We made time for ice cream.

It’s just another way of remembering them all.

Change is hard.