Local Tragedy Hits Uncomfortably Close To Home

Over the last several months I have grappled with my feelings over the tragedy concerning Jared Dejong.  Living in the community of Ilderton, our daughters attended Medway High School and knew Jared.  As a matter of fact, my middle daughter and Jared went to prom together.  So, this local tragedy has come uncomfortably close to home.

After reading the heartbreaking news articles of yesterday’s court proceedings, I reflected on my own sense of angst and finally put my finger on the pulse of what was troubling me.

As a community, we have failed Jared Dejong.

There is no doubt that Jared made the decision to get behind the wheel of a car with his blood alcohol level beyond the legal limit.  Jared also made the decision to drive recklessly, through the quiet streets of our beloved university, taking the life of an innocent young woman and devastating her family and friends beyond what I could ever imagine.

Jared made choices that have caused horrendous, far-reaching consequences.

We can all point our finger at Jared, but as it goes with finger pointing, there is always three pointing back.  As a community we share some responsibility in this situation.

The sense of ‘normalcy’ around the youth-drinking-culture is alarming.  Too often parents wink their eye as their teenagers (some of them three, four and five years younger than the legal drinking age) sneak alcohol from their liquor cabinets.  The sentiment that ‘they’re just having fun’ or ‘it’s their rite of passage’ is far too common and leaves the concerned parents feeling powerless to make change against the tide of complacency.

And it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye……or buries a daughter….or sees their son go to prison.

The truth is, the risks associated with teenage and young adult drinking are serious.  Alcohol affects our young people’s brain development, how they view themselves, their judgement and what coping strategies they develop.  The mis-use of alcohol at an early age develops patterns into adulthood and often goes hand in hand with mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.  Not surprisingly, alcohol is also a major factor in fatal automobile crashes.

Like so many in our little community, I am deeply saddened at the thought of the ongoing turmoil and heartbreak that the Dejong (and of course the Christidis) family will have to endure because of this regrettable tragedy.  But being sad is not enough.  As a community, shame on us if we don’t step it up.  It’s our responsibility to talk openly with our young adults about their personal challenges, choices and coping strategies.  We must empower them to go against the drinking-status-quo and be clear with them about our expectations for their behaviour, setting the example ourselves to be responsible with alcohol.

7 thoughts on “Local Tragedy Hits Uncomfortably Close To Home

  1. It is a very sad situation and the young man will go to prison and mix wth criminals far more dangerous then he is. I cannot imagine how everyone will deal with the loss of the beautiful young woman who’s life was taken in such a horrible way. It would be better if this young man served the community, speaking at schools, the university, visiting the hospital where victims are suffering from any kind of dangerous driving accident. There has yo to be a better way to punish this kind of crime. Prison is not an answer. In 5 years or what, he will be out walking the streets and free. The parents and family may feel this time away is worth the life of their daughter but if it were my daughter I would prefer this young man living in his home, going about his daily life, being responsible in the community, doing what I suggested, speaking to the youth of our society.

  2. So well said! I am a very good friend of Jared ‘s mom Cathy and feel for this family. How a split second can change so many lives! The amount of drinking and driving that goes on is astonishing we have the Beer Store return Depot at our store and people bring back huge amts. Of bottles they find in the ditchs! They can only get there by people drinking while driving so no one is learning what tragedies this can cause! My heart breaks for this young man…he will pay for this for the rest of his life!

  3. Drinking and Driving is not OK. We are all aware of this. Yet a decision is made by many every night to do it and they arrive home safe. This situation did not happen that way. It is a tragedy for all involved and I commend Jared for taking full responsibility for his actions and accepting the consequences. He is not a coward. I think young people need to hear this first hand from Jared, why he made the decision he did and the feelings he will hold for the rest of his life. I hope and pray that Andrea’s family can find peace someday and not let this terrible terrible tragedy destroy their lives.

  4. A little more than 25 years ago what should have been the happiest time in our lives welcoming our first child into this world became the darkest most tragic time of our lives.
    Two and a half weeks after our daughter was born we received a phone call at 1 am that our beloved sister and sister-in-law Karen was in the Hospital with severe head injuries after being struck in her car by an impaired driver who was in her early 20’s.
    Karen was a 29 year old RNA who devoted her life to helping others.
    She never got the chance to finish the blanket she was crocheting for our daughter’s arrival.
    I can tell you first hand that I truly understand what the Christidis Family is going through and will continue to go through for the rest of their lives.
    They say that tragedy either brings a Family closer or tears them apart and unfortuneately ours was the latter.
    After the accident and sentencing in which the girl involved received 2 years less a day, my husband and I could not help but feel the pain and sadness that she must be going through living with the facts that she had killed someone and caused a passenger with her to become a quadraplegic.
    Unfortuneately impairment due to alcohol does not allow a person to make the proper decisions and just like Jared, she too chose the wrong one.
    I hope and pray that the Christidis Family can also find peace and forgiveness for this senseless tragedy as we have in our lives. Anger wll only destroy them and others around them as we have lived it. We know Karen would not want us to spend the rest of our lives doing so. I am sure by hearng what Andrea was like in the victim impact statements that she would want her Family and Friends to live their lives to the fullest without self destruction.
    On October 8th, 2015, I received a phone call that Jared was in an accident after drinking and driving and had seriously injured a young lady who was in life-threatening condition. I was not only in shock but in disbelief that Jared was capable of doing such a thing.
    As I sat through the agonizing victim impact statements being read and making Jared seem like the most horrible human being on the Face of this earth, my heart broke repeatedly as I witnessed him sobbing uncontrollably.
    Mrs Christidis referred to Jared as being a coward and said that she would never forgive him for the pain and loss he has caused.
    In my opinion Jared was not the coward she she described him to be. Jared has faced this head-on and has taken full responsibility unlike some of his friends who ran away from the scene and have not cntacted him since.
    One of them even had the gall to dress up like a convict for Halloween with a drink in his hand less than a month after Andrea’s death and post his picture on social media..
    To all the young peolple out there who do wrong things for the sake of pleasing others, I beg you to take a stand.
    This society and the government need to make everybody who chooses to sit in the car and impaired driver behind the wheel just as much an accessory to the driver himself and hold them accountable also.
    In our opinion Jared would be much more useful and effective working side-by-side with our government officials and bringing more awareness that every person in that car should be held accountable.
    This would force young people to take a stand and never allow their friends or others get behind the wheel of a car knowing full on that they too will be held accountable for allowing it to happen in the first place.
    I hope and pray that the judge does not make an example out of Jared’s actions and realizes how much more valuable Jared could be in changing the lives of our future generations.
    Andrea will live on forever in our hearts as will Karen.

    1. I must agree with you, this young man is not a coward and will live with what happened that day for the rest of his life. I am not the kind of person that feels it necessary to forgive a person for any wrong doing. But if one wants to heal, then you have to move forward, a moment at a time, a day at at time. What ever it takes. Victim impact statements are good I guess but in general, they only make the guilty feel worse about what they did and the family and friends of the victim feel better. Speaking about their loss and future. I feel so very sorry for the loss of life. I also feel very sorry for the man because he will always have a stigma attached to him. ” he killed.” It was his fault, he made a bad choice. I had. I had no idea there were others in the car that took off??? Now these people were the cowards….

  5. I believe victim impact statements are used for two reasons, the first to help the accused understand as much as possible the impact his or her actions have had on family and friends and secondly to help with the healing process. I wish more people who make a mistake such as this young man would step up to the plate and admit to their mistakes. Should he help other young adults understand the realities of drinking and driving? Yes! But not until he has served his sentence. We all make mistakes, we pay for those mistakes. He took the life of another, he chose to drive after drinking. My heart breaks for loss of this young girl and the families of everyone involved. When Jared is finished his sentence he will be even more equipped with examples of the repercussions of drinking and driving. I am sure we all remember the loss of 3 children and their grandfather due to the same lack of judgement, he pled guilty, stepped up to the plate, did any of us think he should serve his sentence in the community speaking or working with the government? He made a mistake and like Jared will spend the rest of his life knowing what he did. Should we as a community or society work harder at helping our teens understand the dangers of alcohol in general not just drinking and driving? Absolutely!

  6. I agree with the statement that society has an obligation and that being said – there had to be other people around at the time that knew he was intoxicated and should not be driving – alcohol numbs the brain so his decisions were not correct – but there is also a responsibility to the people serving the alcohol – he did not get intoxicated on one drink – there is an onus on liquor establishments to not serve those that are intoxicated or under age – and throwing them out of the bar only sends them out into the streets to do whatever. There needs to be more accountability to stop these terrible tragedies – drinking and driving does not mix but it happens every day – WHY? How do we change it to protect others and to protect our own. Perhaps Jared can contemplate what changes can be made and what could have been done to change his situation – aside from not driving – how do we stop them at the moment it is happening – was everyone there intoxicated and didn’t know the difference – I sincerely hope not.

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