Maryland Remembers Lives Lost to Drunk Drivers
State officials gathered on Tuesday to pay tribute to local families who have lost loved ones to drunk driving. The number of fatalities caused by drunk drivers has increased statewide.
One by one, Maryland residents from across the state proceeded into the conference room of the Miller Senate Office Building Tuesday as part of the seventh annual Maryland Remembers Memorial.
They each shared stories of the loved ones they lost to drunk drivers. In their hands were treasured photos to remind them of the people close to their hearts.
Victoria Brown, a spokesperson for MADD in Anne Arundel County and around the state, lost her 12-year-old son Darius J. Brown in a drunk driving incident on May 30, 2004.
"For us holidays are horrific," she said.
With her daughter Aaliyah by her side, Brown spoke to the crowd, sharing her family's story.
"Robert and I lost our first born, our only son. Aaliyah lost her big brother, her only sibling. Our lives will never be the same. We are forever broken by such a senseless action. We go through each day trying to make sense of how this happened," Brown said, through tears.
In attendance were state leaders and local law enforcement officers, there to recognize the families, pay tribute to the lives that have been lost and address the issue of drunk driving in the state of Maryland.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown addressed the crowd and thanked them for coming.
"I want to start by thanking you, the family and friends who have lost mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and friends for being here today and sharing their story. Your courage is a tremendous contribution to us," he said.
Brown emphasized the importance of the issue to the administration.
"For me and Governor O'Malley this is a priority to reduce drunk driving," Brown said to the crowd.
He called this year "frustrating," adding that the number of fatalities caused by drunk driving in the state of Maryland have gone up.
Also attending the event, was Neil Pedersen, administrator for the State Highway Administration. "I can promise you this, Maryland will not forget your loss," Pedersen said to the families in the crowd.
Officials in attendance emphasized the importance of addressing the issue during the holiday season, when many celebrations involve alcohol.
Gary Hofmann, sheriff of Queen Anne's County, urged those in attendance to use their unique situation to deliver the powerful message of the dangers of drunk driving.
"Even one loss of life is too many," Hoffman said.
Rob Weichbrod, of Silver Spring, said of Tuesday's event, "It's refreshing to us that there are efforts to get drunk drivers off the road."Weichbrod said one year ago today, he never imagined being at an event like this.
He and his wife, Kathy, lost their 26-year-old son Rory, after he was struck and killed by a drunk driver this October.
Weichbrod said while much of today's culture is geared toward alcohol he doesn't think that society recognizes vehicles as potential weapons when combined with alcohol.
"It's like a weapon," he said. "Our son was murdered."