Are there ever times in life where you start to lose faith in your fellow-man? When people’s characters seem so ugly that you wonder how it is we got this far and why we seem to be getting worse and not better?
Today has been one of those days. But before I get into the details, I need to share a little back story.
A week or so ago, I received a friend request on Facebook from someone I went to junior high with. Now, my middle school years were my ugly ones. Quite literally. I was a geeky girl with frizzy hair, a mouth full of metal, skin that made the Proactiv ladies millions, and glasses that took up half of my face. Needless to say, I was not popular and don’t look very fondly on those formative years. So when I got a request from Peter, I didn’t immediately accept it.
I was a little surprised to even get a request from him. He was one of the popular guys who was actually decent and not a total jerk to everyone. We went to the same high school though I rarely saw him and I can honestly say, I haven’t thought of him since I graduated. Since I did have fond memories of him, I went ahead and accepted the request as I figured he was trying to reach out to people from our class in lieu of our ten-year reunion next year. I checked out his profile, found out he was living a few hours away, and put him back in that we’re-not-friends-but-I-don’t-hate-you imaginary box that is reserved for most folks you only see on Facebook and never interact with in real life.
Sunday I learned Peter had been in a fatal car accident. He was 27.
Via our class Facebook page, I let everyone know that one of our very own had met an untimely death. People from middle school and high school quickly filled up the post with condolences and surprise that such a nice guy had passed away so soon. You never realize how fragile life is until someone your own age dies and the outpouring of support was endearing.
I found an article about the crash online and learned that, though Peter’s death was sad enough, the story was a lot more tragic than I had anticipated.
Peter was the passenger of a truck that hit a light pole. The driver, his younger brother, survived. But that’s not all. It appears that both brothers had been drinking prior to the crash and now his younger brother will be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
I cannot imagine what this family is going through or the effect that this will have on Peter’s brother for the rest of his life. Their mother must be devastated to lose one son to death and the other potentially to prison. It’s such a horrible situation to be in and my thoughts are with the family at this time.
Unfortunately, not everyone who read the article felt the same way.
Comments flooded the online story that were hateful, disrespectful, and downright nasty:
“No sympathy for idiots.”
“[Their mother] should have taught them a little better.”
“It is tragic, but this was not an accident.”
“I don’t feel sorry[. T]he kids they are old [enough] to know to not drink and drive.”
“I have no problem with them killing themselves [to] decrease the surface population of some more idiots and waste of space[. M]y condolences to the surviving family members but Peter you ‘were’ just an a-hole.”
I could not believe my eyes as I scanned these kinds of comments and pictured Peter’s mother reading them, devastated and then to have these strangers call into account her parenting skills. None of these commenters knew him or his family personally yet there were all compelled to weigh in the tragic loss.
A few of the commenters asked people to tone it down in order to pay respects to the grieving family. They were called defenders of drunk drivers and told that they supported the behavior that led to the senseless tragedy.
Here’s the thing, everyone knows drunk driving is bad and we shouldn’t do it. I’m not sure I could find many people who will be on the “Yes for Drunk Driving” bandwagon. That’s just ridiculous.
But there is such a thing as compassion and this is something that is easy to forget about on the internet. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but common respect should never be disregarded in the name of getting one’s point across.
I’m glad that no one else was hurt in this accident, but at the end of the day, it was just that. An accident. I’m quite sure that the night’s plans did not include driving into a light pole, but poor choices were made and they had unfortunate consequences.
My heart goes out to Peter’s family at this time, but let this all be a lesson for each of us: don’t drink and drive. And try to remember that what you say on the internet is read by actual humans with hearts and emotions.
Don’t forget, words can sting long after they are uttered.