Of all the recent Rappahannock News stories to stir reader reaction, none has surpassed the verdict in the trial of a teenage driver whose schoolmate was killed in a vehicular crash last October. In a case like this, no matter the outcome, there will always be those who say injustice has prevailed.
So rather than talking about what’s just or unjust, perhaps the better word is tragic. For there can be no dispute that it is a true tragedy for all involved.
Not long before the trial, a disturbing report, based on a study commissioned by Rappahannock Public Schools, indicated that Rappahannock sixth- through 12th-graders were more likely to use alcohol and other drugs than the national average. Why, we wonder.
There are no easy answers, even for adults who often pretend that age means wisdom. Certainly, adults such as yours truly have trouble lecturing and preaching when we remember with fondness the alcohol-fueled parties we put on as teenagers, not only in Rappahannock but in neighboring Clarke and then still-rural Fauquier as well.
Growing up in this area means you feel you’re always at least 25 miles from somewhere. So we thought nothing of driving however long it might take to wherever we’d heard there might be a good party. If there wasn’t a party somewhere, we’d joke that all there was left to do out here in the country was: “Drive around and drink some beer.”
But scratch beneath the surface scar of fond recollections of teenage years and you’ll find wounds that never have quite healed. In my own case, I’m forever haunted by the memory of a family who lived less than a mile from me and lost both a son and a daughter, their only children, in separate auto crashes a year apart.
It’s a deadly combination: rural living, cars, booze and boredom.
All of us — teachers, law enforcement, parents — need to recognize this truth and never stop telling illustrative stories. There’s no guarantee that easily distracted, youthful attention will be paid, but still the tragic stories should be told and retold, never to be forgotten.