North Carolina Department of Correction
Victims Voices: Silent No More
National Crime Victims
A celebration of victims'
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|Comments of Saundra Dockery
Two days later, on April 16, 1996, my life as I knew it was over. My 25-year-old daughter, my only child, a beautiful and active young woman, a gift from God, and a vital part of my life was no longer in this world. She and her friends were dead because of the careless, the reckless and the illegal act of one drunken driver.
I lose my breath when I realize that I will not see her again. Her smile will no longer brighten up a room; her laughter will no longer dance along the walls; her eyes will no longer sparkle like the sun. Her voice is now only an echo in my memory. Each day I awaken to the awareness of her absence, and the reality of her death returns, sometimes threatening to consume me.
The deaths of my daughter and her two friends, the massacre at Columbine High School and violent crime throughout the country have led me to begin searching desparately for answers. We may not ever know or fully understand why--which is, sadly, the nature of violent crime. It is unspeakably sad that so many lives are cut short way too soon, that so many talents are lost and so many families are left heartbroken. Each fatality or injured person is a unique and irreplaceable individual with a name, a family and dreams which must now go unfulfilled.
But these tragic stories continue day after day. I can see by the looks on your face that all of you know only too well how guns, despair, drugs and alcohol threaten to reach out to what is most precious to us: our children, our legacy, our future.
It is a wicked world, many of you are thinking, a world gone crazy. You would like to protect your family but you feel helpless, unable to do anything except hope, hope that the bad things don't happen to you and your family. As long as the frightening images, the shattered glass, the twisted metal and the pain and anguish that you see on the faces of victims have nothing to do with you or your family, you soon return to your daily activities and put those horrible images behind you. You devote a solemn pause to the victims' families and hope that the police will bring the offender to justice. While many lives return to normal, the family and friends of victims are left devastated.
Those of us who have lost a loved one or who have been injured as a result of crime, are not the same people that we were. Our lives have changed forever. It is as if we are on the far side of a great divide that separates us from those who have not experienced a tragedy, a divide that separates us from our former selves.
I speak for every mother, father, son or daughter who refuse to lose one more person they love by a coward who carries a gun, or a drunk who has made a careless choice to drink and drive, by a man who abuses his wife and children, or by a rapist who has no respect for human dignity. Even a single crime in America is one too many. Even a single family threatened by violence is unacceptable.
Victims should be at the center of the criminal justice process. Today, it is time for us to make sure that while we continue to protect the rights of the accused, the government does not trample on the rights of victims. And crime victims deserve that as much as any group of citizens in the United States ever will. Clearly, if we are to preserve a criminal justice system that protects all of us, we should not re-injure those whom the system is dependent upon. We must never forget that while the state may be the legal victim, the state is not killed by a drunken driver, is not gunned down in a school building, is not kidnapped, is not raped, it does not bleed or die...people suffer these consequences.
And because the carnage is so great, there is a long and committed line of people who will never rest until the violence ends. Every murder, every abused woman or child, every victim of a drunk driving crash, create more of us. Those of us who have lost our loved ones can never bring them back. There is no sentence that can be imposed that will balance the scales. Justice is never done. but we can reduce the likelihood that others will perish. We can join together to speak to those who don't understand the pain, the despair, the anguish of violent crime. We will continue to fight for better laws that will guarantee victims equal protection under the law.
For my daughter, Tiffany Dockery and her two friends, Sherri Shoniece, for Briana and Ricardo Crutchfield, for Reuben McNeil, for Anita Byrd, for Alice Covington, and for all those who have died or have been injured as a result of a violent crime, we still have work to do.
To Karen Taylor-George and the North Carolina Department of Correction Victim Services, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and to the state and local victim advocacy agencies, thanks for your commitment and your dedication. You are clearly making a difference.
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