Thousands of DUI victims memorialized in moving tribute
They are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, wives and husbands.
The names on the wall represent senior citizens and unborn babies.
There are Shawns and Lisas, Margarets and Georges.
They come from different backgrounds and different places, but all have one thing in common: Someone who was drunk or high killed them on a Pennsylvania road.
Their 2,200 names grace a wall in the DUI Victims Moving Memorial, which was parked at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg Wednesday — a reminder of the lives lost to impaired driving.
“These names are of people, of real people, real human beings who have families and friends, and it makes it all the more personal,” Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha said Wednesday during a press conference with officials from PennDOT, the state police and the Pennsylvania DUI Association at the memorial.
The officials wanted to send a message — and a warning — that police would be out in force to target aggressive and drunken driving this holiday season.
Operation Safe Holiday is a statewide initiative running from Thanksgiving to New Years involving state and local police in enforcing traffic and seat belt laws.
“Our goal is to make this holiday season a time for joy and not a time for sad reminders of loved ones needlessly lost,” said Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT District 12.
During last year's holiday season, there were 8,513 crashes and 92 people lost their lives in Pennsylvania, including three in Westmoreland and two in Washington County.
Trooper Stephen Limani of the state police Greensburg barracks said officers will be out in full force conducting DUI patrols and targeting aggressive drivers, as well as those not using seat belts.
“The seat belt is your first line of defense in a crash, and it's important you buckle up every time,” he said. “... Make sure nobody gets behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol.”
Bacha said his office has seen the results of accidents far too often in 2012. Through October, 34 people have died in traffic accidents in Westmoreland County this year — up from an all-time low of 26 last year, he said.
They spoke in front of the DUI Moving Memorial, which is housed in a 30-foot trailer and is a replica of the permanent DUI Victims Memorial Garden located at the Pennsylvania DUI Association's Harrisburg office.
A garden setting is painted inside the trailer, which features a wall of the names of DUI victims in Pennsylvania the association has gathered through family members, newspaper stories and word of mouth.
The names on the wall in the mobile memorial are engraved in bricks in the permanent garden.
The memorial will make a number of stops throughout the state this month to remind people of the dangers of impaired driving.
“When they see real names of real people, it brings it a little more to life and not just numbers,” said Cathy Tress, director of the western office of the DUI Association.
She said stopping at a college campus hopefully will get a strong message across to call for a ride if you've been drinking or to have a designated driver.
“Mom and Dad would much rather get a phone call at 2 or 3 in the morning than a knock on the door from a police officer,” Tress said.
Susan Isola, media relations director at UPG, said she knows all too well the dangers of impaired drivers. Isola was struck twice by a drunken driver. Luckily, she was not injured in either crash.
“When I go out, I don't drink. If I'm going to drink, I stay home,” she said. “It's a scary situation, and when it happens, it all happens in slow motion.”
She considers herself lucky her name is not on the wall.
“I could be there,” she said. “It makes you realize the seriousness of the situation.”
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- H&M to open in Westmoreland Mall
- Greensburg still fighting waterlogged Lynch Field, may add drainage
- Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, Youngwood discuss sewage system sale
- Witnesses recount Franklin Regional stabbing
- Youngwood officials defend rules for rentals
- Sounds of Christmas coming to Fay-West region
- Trio of concerts to mark Greensburg’s holiday season
- Westmoreland County, Mt. Pleasant Borough officials try to solve Willow parking issue
- Westmoreland County Judge Regoli has 5 days to decide on whether he’ll ask for recount
- Greater Latrobe board votes to buy athletic field, plans to build elementary school there
- Salvation Army raises goals for Red Kettle campaigns in Westmoreland