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Mom Who Lost Family to Drunk Driver Writes Poignant Open Letter One Year Later

Image Source: Destiny Mantia
Image Source: Destiny Mantia

Facebook may be the perfect place to share inspirational photos and “like” pictures of what your friends had for dinner, but one Missouri mother proved that the social media platform can serve a much more significant purpose.

One year ago, on September 20, 2014, Destina Mantia lost her husband Corey and 15-month-old son Parker when a drunk driver slammed into the family’s vehicle. Parker died upon impact and Corey was airlifted to the hospital, where he later died from his injuries. Everyone in the car had been wearing seat belts. (The drunk driver also died at the scene.)

In just two days since the one-year anniversary, Destiny’s Facebook warning has been shared close to 32,000 times with over 15,000 likes:

As a mom of two, my heart broke to read this — but not for the reason you’d think. It broke because I have driven under the influence of alcohol myself.

When I was 24, I was arrested for a DUI after a night out with friends. I have spent the past decade of my life paying for it and feeling the guilt rush back all over again when I read stories like Destiny’s in the news. I didn’t kill anyone, but I could have. I knew people in my social circle who did. I made a stupid mistake that I deserved to get caught for because I naïvely assumed — like so many of us drunk drivers do — that I could handle my alcohol if I felt sober enough.

Now that I’m a mother, my mistake still haunts me, but I’m handling things differently. I’m fanatical about never drinking and driving. I’ve become that annoying person who often kills the conversation by bringing up drunk driving among friends. And funnily enough, most of my friends, who also happen to be loving parents, don’t fully grasp the magnitude of driving after one too many drinks.

Most of my friends are shocked to hear that if you drive your kids home after a holiday dinner where you’ve had a few extra glasses of wine, you could be charged with a felony in many states for driving under the influence with kids in the backseat. My friends are also shocked to hear that an estimated 30 people die in the U.S. each day in drunk-driving accidents, which averages out to about one death every 51 minutes. One-third of all traffic-related deaths happen in accidents where alcohol was involved. And an estimated one-third of all drunk drivers are repeat offenders.

You don’t read much about that on parenting blogs.

But that’s exactly why I continue to annoy my friends by discussing drinking and driving whenever it comes up in conversation — and that’s why I’ve started talking to my children about it. I can’t blame anyone for my arrest but myself, but I can say that growing up in a home where alcohol was never talked about because it was a sin, didn’t help me to develop an attitude of moderation or responsibility. I hope to never put my kids in the same predicament.

Coming from the other side of the story, I can’t thank this grieving mother enough for being open about her loss. Destiny told me that she is slowly healing and moving forward in the year after her husband and sons’ deaths:

“I’ve grown a lot over the past year. I have found strength I never knew I had. This is something no mother and wife could ever dream of happening. It is truly your absolute worst nightmare. I think what has helped the most is the love and support I’ve gotten. It has also been crucial to always find something positive out of every situation good or bad.”

One mom was brave enough to put a piece of her heart out on social media in the hopes of saving even one life, and I can tell you from personal experience that everything she said is true: Life is short and precious, drinking and driving is beyond selfish, and even one drink is too many.

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