A handmade, roadside memorial on state Route 36 near Sunbury bore mute witness to the damage done by a drunk driver.
A bank of flowers stretched between two wooden crosses.
At the edge of Westerville in Delaware County, the third victim of that same driver hosed down three alpacas in summer sun.
Erin Smith spends her day caring for her animals. It wasn't the life she planned. Thirteen years ago she was the passenger on a motorcycle, the final ride of three friends.
"They were on their way to Red White and Boom about 8:30 at night," said her mother, Debby Smith. "On the night of Erin's accident, people had called 911. The patrolmen and the sheriffs were ready. They had put a plan into action. They had set up a stop point just north of 36-37. They knew they were going to get him. They just never planned that he would get off at the 36-37 exit."
Erin and friends Steven Morganstern and Corey Lehman were struck head-on by a van in the wrong lane. The young men died. Erin was thrown 80 feet into a cornfield. She was a state-ranked volleyball player and college engineering student. The crash disabled her and changed her life.
Debby Smith listed the milestones that her daughter was never able to achieve. "College degree. Coaching a volleyball team. Marriage, family, kids."
Debby said that doctors thought Erin would live in a state of vegetation, but with the help of her beloved animals, parents, and much therapy, she has learned to walk and talk again.
“We need to look at these people as killers, because they are,’ said Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer.
He spoke to a gathering of law enforcement officers from Franklin and Delaware counties at the kickoff of the annual campaign called Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. He promised that through Labor Day, they would stop and check potentially impaired drivers
"This is our duty: to protect the public. That's what we are here for. That's what we have sworn to preserve,” Morbitzer said. "There is nothing worse than delivering a death notification to a family that their child has been killed by a drunk driver."
Debby Smith's other children have grown and gone. But Erin stayed home. She will always need help. But for this mother, despite that tragic evening and a struggle that continues, she is grateful that her daughter survived.
"I'm never going to have to deal with the empty nest. I'm never going to have to find out of it was something that I was going to struggle with because I'm never going to have an empty nest. And that's, that's okay with me," she said.
Erin Smith, now 32, nuzzled her mother's neck and agreed. "You'll always have me," she said.
More than 11,000 Americans are killed each year by drunken-drivers.
The stepped-up enforcement will run through Labor Day.
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