The Day My World Ended

by Melissa Bailey

My life as a mom started on June 4, 1995. My son was born 17 days early, perfectly healthy. Weighing 5 pounds 9 ounces at birth, Cody was small, but a handful. On July 3, 1995, I went with my family, boyfriend and a friend’s child to the fireworks celebration at Heber Springs. The loud noises did not phase Cody, probably because I worked in a factory the whole time I was pregnant and he was used to the noise. After the fireworks, we went back to my parent’s house. I decided to take my friend’s son home. My mom suggested I leave my son with her, but I told her I would just take him with me. After all, I wasn’t going to ask her to watch him every time I went somewhere. She had already put in her time by raising three children. My brother asked me to pick up our truck when I went into town because he was leaving out that night on a trip.

When we got to the truck, Cody was asleep in the back seat of the car, strapped into his car seat. My boyfriend, Steve, said, “We will follow you.” I got out of the car, into the truck and headed back to my parent’s house. We were on Highway 16, just past Albion, heading towards Hickory Flat when I noticed another vehicle heading towards me, then coming into my lane. The other driver hit my truck, smashing the whole driver’s side. I lost control and did a u-turn. The truck ended up lying on the passenger side in the ditch. I unbuckled my seat belt and climbed out the driver’s side window. It was then that I noticed that after the other driver hit me, he hit Steve almost head-on. I jumped down from the side of the truck and ran to the car. The impact of the other vehicle hitting them had killed Steve instantly and pushed Steve’s seat on top of Cody. Steve was the first one that I saw and I knew immediately that he didn’t make it. Then I tried to see Cody. He was covered up with the front driver’s seat, and all I could see was his foot. He wasn’t moving. He wasn’t crying. I knew then that my son and my boyfriend had both been killed. My world just ended. I just had bruises and surface cuts, but the mental scars were deep and will be there forever. The paramedics arrived and took the other driver, his wife and me to the hospital. In the meantime, someone got a call through to my parents. The caller told my mom that her car was involved in a wreck just north of Albion. My parents showed up as the ambulance was driving away. They did not see me or the truck I was driving and they knew nothing about our conditions. When they got to the emergency room, I told my parents that Steve and Cody were dead. The police wanted to draw blood for a Blood Alcohol Content test and I willingly agreed. They drew blood from the other driver, too. I later found out that the other driver had been at the fireworks show and had been drinking. His blood alcohol content about 2 hours after the crash was 0.1. The drunk driver had a broken back and his wife had to have reconstructive surgery on her face from hitting the dashboard. I was released from the hospital after a few hours, physically ok. Mentally, my life was in chaos. I was lost, my whole world changed that night. The drunk driver recovered and we eventually went to court. After a 4-day trial, he was charged with negligent homicide and sentenced to 1 year in the county jail. He served 7 months of that sentence and was free to go home to his family. Cody was 1 month old and Steve was 29 years old and they had both lost their lives.

People have asked me how I can go on after that, but how can I not? I have had to learn to deal with what I have been given and what has been taken from me. I joined MADD about 2 years later. Seeing other people who have been victimized by drunk drivers has helped me to realize that I can go on, and have a somewhat normal life. I mourn for Cody and wonder what he would be like today. He would be 11 years old. I never got to see his first real smile and never got to hear his first words or see his first steps. There are so many things that I never got to see, all because one man decided to drink and drive that night. The choice he made for himself made the choice for Steve and Cody. I have moved on with my life, but it is a different life. Life is never the same after a senseless crime such as this.