By Angie Romero
A lot of people can pinpoint the day their life changed forever. Many of us graduate college, get married, or have a child and think “This is it, this is the day my life changed forever!” And I have had these days and these thoughts.
December 1, 2016 was a day that changed me forever. On this date my husband, Richard, was struck by a driver under the influence of alcohol at almost 3 times the legal limit. He was rushed to the hospital where he remained in a persistent vegetative state until he died on Christmas Eve. All because a 23 year old young lady chose to go out and drink and then get behind the wheel of a car.
Justice is defined in the dictionary as “the administering of deserved punishment or reward” and my family wanted justice. We wanted her life changed forever just as ours had been. We went through an 8 month court process and had a 7 year sentence handed down to the offender and justice was served, or was it? Yes, the DA got her sent to prison but she never said a single word to us or took responsibility for anything. She just sat there and took the punishment that was handed out. And while we had the opportunity to give Victim Impact Statements, I never felt she understood who my husband was and just how much his loss affected my family and I. She never acknowledged anything. All I kept asking myself was did she care? Did she care that she destroyed my family’s life? That she took the man that meant everything to me and did she care?
It took me two years of depression, hatred and anger towards the offender before I realized that this was eating me up alive and was damaging my future and family. I stumbled upon the VOD program (Victim/Offender Dialogue) that the prison offered. So I started the process not even sure I had the guts to face the person who gave us this life we never asked for or wanted. So sure that she wouldn’t even want to face me. She did agree to meet me and we started down the road to our face to face meeting. It wasn’t a fast or easy process and there were some days I thought we were never going to get there but finally the day arrived.
The apprehension I felt that morning was through the roof, I questioned myself if I could still do this, and then finally the calmness (the peace of God?) that always kicks in when faced with difficult situations. I sat at the table and watched as she came in and sat down. What transpired in the next 2 ½ hours was the justice I was seeking. I was finally able to share with her the person my husband was, the horrors my family went through, and finally was able to hear the offender say to me “I’m sorry” and take responsibility for the choices she made that night and to truly hear what I had to say. I walked away from that meeting feeling heard for the first time, the hatred and anger beginning to release its hold on me and with the feeling that maybe, just maybe I made a difference in her life.
The offender still has the rest of her sentence to serve and I still will not have my husband returned to me but the healing that was started that morning will continue to grow and do its work. Justice was finally served.