I’ll never forget the tears, the loss, the carnage
Very few vivid memories remain from the morning of April 1, 2005. I was 17.
The one that sticks the most was dad crying. Dad never cries. Farmers never cry.
It could have been 4am, it could have been 7am. I still don’t know. All I remember was it was dark and mum and dad were standing at my bedroom door in tears. Daryl was gone. My mate.
How they told me I can’t remember. I’m sure they told me it was a car accident straight away but I don’t know what was said.
I don’t know when they told me his sister, Kate, and her friend, Sarah, were gone too.
I don’t know when I asked if Venny and Bec knew. But sometime in the early hours they had been told.
As mum drove me to Venny’s house I distinctly remember it sinking in at the corner of Robertsons Rd and the Princes Highway, just outside Terang. That’s the moment I broke down. Why there, I don’t know.
I remember sitting with Venny and Bec, close friends, not knowing what to do other than reminisce. Already. Just hours after the accident. But there was nothing else we could do.
At some point we decided to walk down the street, to get air and something to eat.
We went to Noono’s milk bar. Noono was there. He joked that it looked like we’d had a big night. He didn’t know. How could he? We’d only just found out. We didn’t tell him. We were just kids. Kids don’t break that sort of news to adults.
Further along we walked past the newsagent. The Warrnambool Standard’s poster was plastered on the window. The front page sat below with a picture of the wreckage. Strangely, I felt disconnected from that photo. It meant nothing to me.
The only other person at the newsagent with us was our high school PE teacher. A bloke who normally wore a cheeky smile and always took the chance to have a friendly dig at Daryl.
That morning, he was lost for words. We didn’t need them. The subtle change from a cheeky smile to an uneasy one said enough.
Somehow we ended up at the high school we’d left just a year before. Eventually just about everyone else from our year 12 class of 20 people joined us.
I remember some of the girls yelling at a journalist to leave us alone. I felt sorry for that guy. In the years to come I’d be on the receiving end of the vitriol. It’s not a nice place to be. From that moment it was a numb blur. There’s nothing at all that I remember.
It was a couple of days before that I last saw Daryl. We were on uni holidays and we were playing golf on a Tuesday. He’d invited me to go to Ballarat with him, Kate and Sarah on the Thursday. March 31. I declined. I had something else on.
They were on their way back when they died. It was at the intersection of Wallinduc-Berrybank Rd and the Hamilton Highway. They missed a give way sign and a truck hit them.
That’s why last weekend brought back so many awful memories. Young lives lost in a tragic accident at an intersection in south-west Victoria. Siblings. Friends.
A truck driver from Terang, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Since Daryl’s accident I can think of three, maybe four, other people that went to my school who have met the same fate. We’re not talking a big school here. When I was there we had about 150 students. Two hundred tops.
In all cases, from what I can gather, it was inattention that brought their undoing. Not speed or alcohol. Just simply missing a give way sign, a stop sign or wandering onto the wrong side of the road.
We need to remember that driving is one of the most dangerous things we can do. When we get in a car we are risking not only our own lives but the lives of those around us.
One lapse in concentration and you impact so many people. The police, the SES, the ambos, families, friends, witnesses, journalists. It’s a horrible feeling.
These last few weeks have been terrible on Victorian roads. Too many people have died because of little mistakes.
As we approach Christmas, please remember to be safe on our roads. Safe doesn’t just mean keeping to the speed limit or not drink-driving.
Safe means being aware of what’s around you, knowing your limitations, knowing the road rules. No one deserves to lose a loved one. No one deserves to deal with the aftermath of a fatal accident.
No one was born to drive.
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