October 25, 1997 started as another normal day. My Uncle Cary Candella was driving over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which was normal. During that weekend, Uncle Cary visited my family at the hospital for the birth of his nephew (my cousin, Michael). Uncle Cary had Sunday plans to go on a long awaited and well deserved fishing trip in Montauk. Unfortunately, he never made it.
My Uncle was doing everything right, driving sober over the bridge, on the way to work. He was involved in a small car accident on the bridge. While checking on the damage and to see if the other people were okay, he was suddenly hit and dragged down the rest of the bridge. The driver was a young man with his life ahead of him, driving home drunk. At the time, my family was unaware of how our lives had been altered forever by a total stranger, in one split second. Uncle Cary would never come home again. Although this driver was a stranger to us, he was the last to see my Uncle alive. Uncle Cary was not drinking. That did not protect him from being mowed down and killed by a drunk driver.
The drunk driver served only a few months compared to the years and future memories ripped away from my Uncle. Years and unmade memories were taken away from my family. My father Douglas, my Aunt Jen, and my Uncle Michael will never have the chance to see their brother again. My grandmother Susan will never get to see her son again. My cousins and I will never be able to have stories of our own to tell about him, just stories that we have heard over the years. We are always reminded of how amazing Uncle Cary was, by viewing countless photographs of him. Many of these photographs show Uncle Cary doing something adventurous like boating or skiing, which are activities we enjoy as a family now. He would have loved to see what our family has become. There were plenty of memories to make. But now, we are just left with mere stories and dreams. We are reminded every day how fragile life is and how one person’s poor decision to get behind the wheel can change so many lives, forever.
In 2013, I was only a Junior in Tottenville High School. My friends and I started getting our licenses to drive, thus, the topic of drinking and driving became more relevant. I recall feeling as though some peers did not understand the severity of drunk driving and felt that it was my wake up call to do something. Sometime thereafter, my classmates and I established a SADD Chapter at Tottenville High School, and used it as the conduit to spread awareness about this issue. We knew that this was something bigger than ourselves. I then reached out to MADD directly. I recall my father and I driving out to the state office on Long Island to discuss our desire to make a change in New York. My family and I have worked closely with MADD from that moment onward.
The shadow of the effects of drunk/drugged driving will be with us for our lifetime. Impaired driving is not an accident nor is it a victimless crime. MADD is an important part of survival and healing for victims, their families and friends. The funds raised through Walk Like MADD are the centerpiece of fundraising for an array of programs and services that are offered at no cost to the victims in the most active area of New York State’s DWI/DUI offenses. While services and programs are offered at no cost to the victims, nothing is free.
Almost a decade ago, my family and I helped MADD launch the Inaugural Staten Island Walk Like MADD. This year we commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Staten Island Walk Like MADD. Please join my family on Saturday, September 30th at Clove Lakes Park. Participate in memory and honor of my Uncle Cary and all who have been impacted by drunk and impaired driving.
Thank you for helping create a future of No More Victims®,
Jacqueline Candella & Candella/Visconti Family