You don’t know me. We have never met. I’m a former General, former lacrosse player, former Kappa. Although you don’t know me, I’ve always felt that the W&L community really belongs to one another. We’re connected to each other through a deep love for our school, our traditions, our community. That’s why I’m writing to you. I know your hearts are breaking today. I know there’s nothing your family or friends can say, let alone a stranger, to make you feel better. You will just need to grieve for a while.
Whether Kelsey was one of your best friends, a classmate, a sorority sister or you just knew her name…I know it hurts. I know your sadness and the vigils you’re holding for the other students still in the hospital. I know the anger, frustration and shell shocked grief that is gripping you. Sadly… almost every W&L student knows these emotions as well… all too well.
Every single alumni that I know knows what it’s like to lose someone we care about or to come close to losing someone or both. We remember their faces, we remember their names, we remember the funerals and memorials, we remember the visits to the ICU and the flowers we brought to their bedsides. It still hurts to remember those days after the accidents… when we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We didn’t know where to turn or what to say. I remember the wave of relief upon moving out of Lexington because the statistics of being in a drunk driving accident would go down. And yet…. year after year, the emails come. The alumni network emails of accident after accident. My kappa girls all shouting over email “again!!” and “why?!”
Drinking and driving happens at all schools, I know that. But…it truly feels like it happens MORE often at our school. It’s probably the size of the school. The student body is one of the smallest out there. It’s probably due to the fact that by our sophomore years, we know almost every student’s name on campus. Yet even with Traveler (the sober ride system) being founded by two of my dear friends, it still happens. We still relive this pain annually.
We can blame the school for not sanctioning Traveler to all parties (which is seemingly impossible), we can blame the houses for being too far out of town, we can blame the party throwers for not offering sober rides home. We can blame lots of people and some of them do require blame. But… it’s time for you students to act. It’s time for each incoming class to sign a sober driving pledge. It’s time for all of you to realize you are not invincible. That if you drive or allow your friend to drive drunk… someone WILL get hurt. They do every damn year.
Promise each other that this will stop. Promise your parents that you’ll think twice, call a friend who is in the library, call your sorority or fraternity brother, call a classmate, call anyone… that was not drinking to come get you. They will. That’s the thing about W&L… more than any other school I’ve witnessed… we Generals belong to each other. We serve one another in the community and we show up for one another when someone is in need. If we belong to one another like we say we do, let’s make each class take this pledge and hold each other to it.
Our school is notorious for scaring freshman with the EC lecture in Lee Chapel, and therefore cheating rarely happens. Students are more than honest with what they perceive to be cheating. Honesty and forthrightness are two of the most common traits. So PLEASE fold into that same lecture in Lee Chapel one about drunk driving. Talk about it. Make it known that this happens almost every single year and we are all sick and tired of being heartbroken. Show the students’ faces who have passed away. Show photos of the accidents. Show students that they DO have a choice. They do not have to get behind the wheel or in the car when someone does.
So… I’m asking you today, do something with your grief. Do something for Kelsey. Take a stand. Say a pledge. Stop drinking and driving… PLEASE.
I’m thinking of and praying for you now and always.