Christensen Law is excited to announce that Joshua Hardin of Searcy, Arkansas, has been named this year’s recipient of the 2016 Christensen Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship!
The annual scholarship was developed in 2016 as part of Christensen’s Law commitment to helping students who are in need of financial assistance pay for college, while raising awareness about the tragic impact of distracted driving.
Distracted Driving is a dangerous epidemic that takes a person’s attention away from the road. Whether it’s to read a text or change the radio, that moment when someone’s eyes are not on the road can lead to a devastating accident. As Michigan car accident attorneys, we are very aware of the tragic number of people who are hurt or even killed in distracted driving accidents. We also know that many college students have somehow been impacted by a distracted driver as demonstrated in the winning essay that Josh wrote.
Josh, age 22, said he will use the scholarship funds to pursue his law degree.
Josh is an advocate for victims of sex trafficking in his home state of Arkansas. He has served as president of H.U.manity (Harding University’s anti-human trafficking club) and assists Partners Against the Trafficking of Humans (PATH) in the reintegration of victims back into society as well as the training of new volunteers. Josh graduated from Harding University in 2015 with degrees in psychology and criminal justice and will attend Bowen School of Law in the fall of 2016. Josh currently lives in Searcy, Arkansas where he spends his free time writing short stories, practicing stage hypnosis routines and losing at card games to his fiancée.
Christensen Law received close to 20 amazing and heartfelt entries and it was not easy to choose just one winner. We would like to thank all of the participants for their entry’s and we wish each student much success in their future.
Would Keith Survive?
Would Keith survive? This question had hung heavy in the air, nobody daring to give actual breath to it. It was a bitter irony that we were asking this of Keith, the symbol of invincibility in our small group of friends. One minute, your best friend makes plans with you about how the two of you would change the world, about how he would someday be a movie director; the next minute, Facebook alerts you that terrible things have happened. We learned that his rugby team had gotten into a car accident on their way to Memphis. It was a freak thing; a truck that wasn’t paying attention got too close to a rugby player’s hatchback, and when the rugby player moved to get out of the way, the hatchback lost control, swerving into the concrete median and rolling five times through oncoming traffic. The various teammates posted statuses saying that they were okay but to pray for Keith. Nobody seemed to know anything though except that Keith was in bad shape when he was rushed to the emergency room. I don’t remember who posted the status initially telling me that Keith was hurt or if a Facebook status had even been how I first learned of his condition. Many say that they remember the exact moment something tragic happens with crystal clear precision, but I don’t remember the one moment because it wasn’t one moment for me; it was several agonizing days, each its own arrangement of snapshots. I’m recounting these moments because people don’t believe that everything can change within a fraction of a second, that there can be consequences for reckless behavior such as distracted driving. While it took one second for our lives to change, it took several days before we learned what happened.
The event happened during our sophomore year of college. It was a typical Arkansan spring, filled with days that started with cut-to-the-bone, chilly mornings before turning sweltering hot by lunch time. I remember that several classmates complained, but the bipolar nature of the weather was nothing new to me. Both Keith and I were natives of the state. We understood more than the weather; we knew the culture. You called your friend’s parents Mister and Miss First Name, and you always held the door open for the person behind you. We understood how the cogs of society fit together, and we understood the secrets. Or rather, we thought we understood the secrets. Before Keith had left for his Rugby trip, we decided to burn time and watch a documentary about sex trafficking and were absolutely shocked when we discovered that it wasn’t just a problem in faraway countries like Cambodia and Thailand. It was prevalent here in the United States, here in Arkansas. Our world was ripped open when we learned that the familiar roads we had driven down countless times since childhood had a dark underbelly. Sex slavery was real, and it was within walking distance. We had started researching what we could do about this problem, staying up all night to figure out who was fighting the injustice and how we could help. I don’t think either of us knew it at the time but looking back, a passion for the oppressed was planting its roots in our hearts. We planned to save the world. Of course, the plans were all made before his trip to Memphis.
I don’t remember the exact moment that I heard about Keith’s accident, and I think it’s because it was through several Facebook status updates all at one, each equally vague. What I do remember with clarity was the picture that was uploaded. I think that was the moment I realized how serious the accident was. The hatchback was turned on its side, most of the windows broken and nearly every angle of the car dented. There were people gathered around the back, pulling Keith from the car. Even through the heavy pixilation, I remember that his body was clearly limp in the picture. Still, nobody updated us on what was wrong with him. There was one jerk who continually updated everyone on his “heroic survival” as he healed from a broken hand. It was one of the few times that I was thankful that the internet can be so harsh as many people commented, telling him that he could take his broken hand and stick it somewhere very uncomfortable. They wanted to hear about Keith. We wanted to hear about Keith. Finally, one person in our group of friends made the drive to Memphis to visit Keith and get an update on his condition. The rest of us waited at home patiently. We finally received a text message learning that Keith had suffered from internal bleeding and a ruptured colon. He was about to go into surgery. In a novel, this would be a chapter break. We would jump ahead and hear how he was doing. We weren’t in a story. This was real life, and we had to wait.
We rented The Thing, an old horror movie starring Kurt Russell. It was a feeble attempt to distract ourselves, but what else could we do? As the four or five of us sat in my dorm room watching the movie, we realized how empty the room felt without Keith. He was my roommate that semester, and that was my first time back in the room since learning the true state of his injuries. Still, we feigned interest as we watched the movie, lying to ourselves and each other that things were alright. The situation was a bitter irony that nobody quite understood at the time, all of us sitting there watching a horror movie. Keith would have loved the movie. He enjoyed telling stories and was especially talented at telling ghost stories. Those ghost stories were always fun because they weren’t real. Sure, you looked over your shoulder for a while after hearing one, but you never really believed it. You never see the ghosts firsthand. It’s always the neighbor of your mom’s friend’s hairdresser who goes ghost hunting and sees the demonic presence face to face, but it never happens to someone you know directly. Distracted driving worked the same way I guess. We all saw the campaigns to stop distracted driving, but it never happened to us. Heck, all of us had been guilty of driving distracted at one point or another. The accidents didn’t really happen. Except of course, it did and like a cruel joke, Keith hadn’t even been hunting for the ghosts; they found him.
That night was mostly full of restless sleep, but there was one moment worth mentioning. I woke up in the middle of the night with the most peculiar sensation. On my chest, there was a disembodied hand. I didn’t know how it got there but upon recognizing what it was, I leapt out of my bed, tumbling across the room. The whole way, this hand beat across my torso, clearly caught on me. I hit the ground hard which knocked the breath out of me. I knew the hand was next to me, but I was focused on catching my breath. After a moment, I looked over and saw the deathly pale hand. I reached over and poked it before realizing that this disembodied hand was actually attached to a body, namely my own. I had been sleeping on it funny, and it had lost all feeling. I laughed at my stupidity. I stopped however when I looked to see if Keith had seen my mistake. There was only an empty bed. I did tell Keith the story later though, and he laughed a lot. I didn’t tell him that I cried when I saw the empty bed. Now I wish I had told him that part.
Keith’s surgery went well. However, due to the nature of the surgery, he was left with a fist sized hole in his stomach. He had to stay in hospital for about a week before he was allowed to go home to ensure that the hole wouldn’t get infected while healing shut. We all went to visit him, and while a bit loopy at times from the drugs, he was in good spirits. He told us how he was strangely lucid during the wreck, afraid he would hit his head as the car was rolling. All the medical experts told Keith that they didn’t know how he survived. It was a miracle. Mind you, not everything was cheery for Keith. He had a lot of make-up work from class, and he was irritated that the paramedics had cut apart his favorite jeans. Still, we were happy he was going to be ok. I said goodbye to him before leaving.
I didn’t want to write these sentences that you are about to read. We all need a happily ever after in our lives, and Keith would have wanted a story that tied up nicely. He would have wanted a story where we both carried out our plans to go to law school to help victims of human trafficking, not just me. However, real life doesn’t work like that. The boy doesn’t always get the girl. The hero doesn’t always save the day. And sometimes, the doctors can’t save the patient. Keith’s wound never healed. It got infected and he died eleven days after he received the news that he would get to go home. I remember his funeral. I remember how angry I was. Who killed Keith? It wasn’t the doctors, the rugby team, God, or Satan. No, his murderer was the person driving the truck. Whoever this person was, they weren’t paying attention. I’m sure it seemed harmless, texting the spouse back or fiddling with the radio. Whatever it was, it led to them drifting lanes and killing Keith. They would never be punished. My head throbbed from the sobbing behind me. I had closed my eyes. I knew it was his mom crying behind me. Distracted driving was not harmless. This wasn’t a public service announcement telling me that. It was the sobs of a mother who lost her child. Keith would never go to law school with me. He would never feel the warmth of his wife sleeping next to him. He would never hold his child in his arms. Just like how his mother would never again hold her child in her arms. I felt nauseous, my headache turned into a full-fledged migraine. Keith was dead, nothing more than a cold corpse to be placed in the ground. I was hateful for a long time after that.
Distracted driving does have consequences. It isn’t about a statistic that grows bigger every year. It’s about the victims of tragedies that could have been avoided. It’s about real people. It’s about Keith. He was a friend, a son, an artist, a dreamer. He was a real person. The victims of distracted driving accidents are surrounded by people whose lives are torn apart when their loved ones die. Trust me, I know. This can be avoided though. When I drive now, I always put my cell phone face down in the seat next to me. It’s that simple. So I ask you, no, I beg you to pay attention when driving. One second can tear apart a life; putting your phone down could save it.