Many Lives Can Change in a Very Fast Minute
By: Jen Winberry, Daily Collegian (Penn State)
December 12, 2006 4:35 PM
(U-WIRE) UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Katherine Applegate and I sat next to each other on the first day of speech class during the fall of our freshman year.
At the time, we were two strangers brought together by chance.
We came from different places and were different people.
I was the nervous freshman who scrambled frantically to write down every word our graduate student instructor said, while she sat back and calmly took it all in.
Had it not been for one alleged bad decision she made a week ago, few people reading this column would even know her name, let alone her story.
According to State College Police, Applegate, 23, of State College, was driving drunk early in the morning of Dec. 2 and struck a freshman as he crossed College Avenue.
Police said Applegate's blood alcohol concentration at the time of her arrest was .208 percent, well above the .08 percent legal limit.
And as of press time, Michael Drauch, 18, remained in critical condition at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
This story boggles my mind because I know Applegate is smarter than that. Although we began here together, we certainly have gone in two different directions.
If she is found guilty of any of the four charges filed against her, which include accidents involving death or personal injury, aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, driving under the influence and restrictions on driver's license for driving without contacts or glasses, it is safe to say her life is over.
Even if she only spends a minimal amount of time in jail, most prospective employers and graduate schools will likely frown upon her record.
While Applegate's attorney, William Arbuckle, said in a Dec. 6 Daily Collegian article that his client did not mean to cause anyone harm, she did just that, regardless of her intent.
Almost 50,000 people are on the Penn State campus each day, so how is it that the average student forgets about each one of these people when the weekend rolls around?
Certainly it is out of ignorance and selfishness, but this defies logic as well.
If you truly are that selfish and do not care at all about those around you, then why are you taking such a risk with your own life and your own future?
While alcohol has played a part in several of this semester's accidents, it has not caused all of them.
And furthermore, it is the irresponsible, "I'm the only person in the world" mentality that causes people to make bad decisions when alcohol is involved.
Whenever we discuss this topic, my girlfriend is always quick to remind me that not everyone thinks the way I do.
But with respect to this issue, they should, because there is little room for error when taking such huge risks with your life and the lives of those around you.
It is a common misconception that nothing bad happens in the place that we affectionately call Happy Valley. While it may seem as though we are protected in this bubble, we are living in the real world just like everyone else.
We are making decisions that affect others on a daily basis, and we must live with the consequences of our actions. And while some of us have grown tired of hearing this advice uttered from parents, professors and administrators, our actions give these people every indication that they need to be repeated.
When it comes down to it, we don't want to admit to ourselves that one day it could just as easily be us in a similar position. Certainly the Katherine Applegate I met in fall 2002 did not aspire to be arrested on a December night at the age of 23.
But she was, and if each student were to make this change in his or her life, she would be the last.