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Father offers advice to MVHS students
After the assembly, Adam Volkernick and Zack Radcliffe talked to Jerrold Mason. They discussed National Organizations for Youth Safety (noys.org) and the possibility of producing a peer-to-peer video to show during driver education classes.
RUMFORD -- Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert began the last in a series of Keeping Kids Safe assemblies for juniors and seniors with, “As we come to a close on our Wednesday assemblies, it seemed fitting to bring us full circle. Today is about the results of a poor decision.”
The screen in Muskie Auditorium was black with white text “Becca Mason, 1996-2012<3.” The students became silent.
Carrie Underwood’s Temporary Home provided the musical backdrop to a montage of photographs of a beautiful young woman with a huge smile. Interspersed were more black screens. “She was 16 years old. A sophomore in high school. She had big dreams.”
“She loved to hunt and go mudding. She definitely was country,” connected her to many in the audience.
Then the messages got serious. “Due to a drunk driving accident. Becca was killed. </3. The driver was drunk, and texting. She drifted off the road.”
The video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYg3LNANlU4.
At the end of the video, Gilbert introduced Jerrold Mason, Becca’s father.
Mason explained, “This whole incident was avoidable. Becca snuck out of the house at midnight. She went with kids she didn’t usually hang with. She didn’t have anyone to watch her back. When you’re with your friends, you watch out for each other.”
He read an emotional letter from Becca’s mom, Tracie Mason, who is unable to speak in front of an audience. She wrote, “I do not ask for you to be a saint, but I beg each of you to make good decisions. Do not drive with any amount of alcohol consumption – zero is the only acceptable level; drive smart with caution, without distractions and at acceptable speeds. And I’m not sure this is always stressed enough – do not ever get in a vehicle if you even suspect the driver has been drinking.”
The accident that took Becca’s life happened less than 5 miles from her home and probably no more than 15 minutes after she left home.
Though choked with emotion, Jerrold continued to read his wife’s words, “I cannot describe to you the pain of losing my daughter. It is not comprehendible to you. Every minute of every day I fight to keep going and be Okay. I miss her desperately! I have two wishes – one is that at some point I will be able to allow my daughter’s beautiful soul to shine through me . . . and the second is that no other parents, brothers, or sisters ever know this pain and sorrow. When you are faced with decisions, that can be difficult in the moment, remember your friend Becca, her kind heart and bright smile – make the right decision, be safe!”
Jerrold continued, “I was a teenager once. I know you want to do things that push the limits. But please stop and think. Listen to your true friends and keep each other safe.”
“The only times I got in trouble was when I wasn’t with my close buddies,” he said.
Jerrold listed several ways his life has changed as a result of Becca’s death. “I never realized how much it would bother me to go to the grocery store. My wife has only been three times since January 7. People come up to talk to you and express their sympathy. They mean well but it’s devastating to go through the emotions again.”
“Becca’s headstone took us awhile to pick out. As a family, we wondered what to do for Mother’s Day. We decided they should deliver her headstone just before Mother’s Day. No family should have that for a celebration.”
“My 22-year-old son is a wreck. Her real close friends are blaming themselves because they weren’t with her that night. Everyone plays the blame game.”
To help recover, Jerrold worked with various politicians to pass a tougher driving law for young drivers. “Now you have nine months with a learner’s permit so you will have to drive in snow and learn what slippery roads feel like. Bigger fines are going to really hurt. The son of friend was pulled over on provisional license. His insurance jumped from $1400 to $2800. The dad took the son’s license because the son couldn’t pay the insurance.”
He went back to his theme about friendship. “Be with someone you trust. Don’t be afraid to call mom, dad, aunt, uncle or even the police. You may get a lecture but you’ll be alive.”
“Don’t trust your life in someone else’s hand, especially someone who has been drinking or someone who is texting,” he concluded.
The students gave Jerrold a spontaneous standing ovation.