Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Young Lady I Once Knew

I once knew a young lady who lived on Tall Oaks Drive in Milford, Ohio. She was a blond, like her mother. At seven, she had a smile that lit up the room. Her face and smile fit her name - Dawn. She was my daughter's best friend.

Her father was a Coast Guard reserve officer and I was a young Army Captain living in a definitely non-military community. We lived there three years before going on to Germany. He also moved from Tall Oaks Drive, but we kept in touch, and still do.

We had lived in Colorado for a few years when we got the news. Sixteen year old Dawn was riding with two friends when they were all killed by a drunk driver.

She'll never brighten a room with that smile again.

Now comes the news from the Colorado Springs Independent that Mark Udall was (edited on 24 Jan to correct some wording) stopped and had his car seized. If he was smoking dope, he might have been charged with DUI, but he was a Congressman's son so he appears to have gotten a possession charge. To this day he doesn't take it very seriously:

It's 1972 in Arizona. A longhaired Mark Udall, in his early 20s, is driving when he's pulled over by a police officer. Something's askew. The officer searches his car. Udall is arrested for possession of marijuana.

Now a 57-year-old congressman, Udall recounts the episode during a recent interview in his Westminster office.

Shaking her head, his spokeswoman, Heather Fox, says she sensed she should have cut off the interview earlier.

"No, no," says Udall, waving his hand to dismiss Fox, who interjects that she was only kidding. "It's out. It's in the record. ... As George Bush put it, "When I was young and reckless, I was young and reckless.'"

The boy who killed Dawn and her two friends was "young and reckless," too. There are a lot of parents, siblings and friends of drunk driving victims like Dawn. We wonder if they will dismiss Udall's (also edited to remove two words) choice as casually as Mark Udall does.

Edited to add: Upon re-reading the interview, there isn't any admission that Mark Udall was stopped for DUI, but there also isn't any evidence that he wasn't. In 1972, cops didn't stop people because they had long hair, and they didn't search cars for the fun of it. Did the search occur because the cop smelled pot? Was this hefty sentence a plea bargain, and if so what were the original charges? Why did he lose his car? There is much more to this story than meets the eye. If Mark Udall wants to avoid this kind of speculation, he needs to be much more forthcoming about the event and its date and place.

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