But today was different.
January 15, a day that comes every year with a memory I wish I didn't have. Two years ago on that date, almost midnight, we received a phone call that would rock our world. A friend of our oldest daughter was calling to give us the number to a sheriff's deputy and told us we needed to call right away. She told my wife, "I want you to be prepared. I think Amanda's been shot."
We'd soon learn Amanda was shot, and killed. Only four days from turning 18 and her lifeless body was lying on the floor of the house of 19-year-old Cody Gorecke, the drunken, stoned guy who hosted the party where he gunned down my beautiful daughter.
The earth rocked beneath my feet...
The days following were pretty much a blur. I can't remember specifics about what happened when. Lots of people came by. Lots of family flew in from out of town. Somehow in all the commotion, we were taken to the funeral home and arrangements were made. Then the funeral. She was murdered on Saturday and it was the following Friday when we held her memorial service. More than 800 attended, huge compared to most funerals I've attended. Then people started leaving and somehow we had to get back to living.
It's a tragic story of a life lost too soon, a family left with a hole that can never be filled. And I believe now that it could all have been avoided if the teens attending that party had abstained from drugs and alcohol.
If you only take one thing from this story, let it be this...teen alcohol and drug abuse is not cool, not fun, not a stage to be grown out of. Before Amanda was murdered, I thought the only real danger of teens drinking came behind the wheel of a car. I thought the only danger from teen drug use was the threat of overdose. Amanda's killer was drunk and stoned, not behind the wheel of a car, not suffering from an overdose. Amanda died a death I never envisioned.
When she refused to sleep with her drunk and stoned killer, he became enraged and went into his bedroom and came out with a weapon. He pointed the sawed-off shotgun at her, pulled back the hammers and turned them loose. A 12-gauge slug struck her in the abdomen and passed through her body, severing her aorta. There was no chance of survival, even if medics could have arrived instantly.
Her murderer was impaired by the alcohol he consumed and the pot he smoked, impaired to a point where logic and reason, rational thinking eluded him. With everything in me, I believe Amanda would be alive today if Cody Gorecke had been sober that night. But he wasn't.
Teen substance abuse is deadly! We learned this the hard way.
Teens, learn from this. Abstain from alcohol and drugs. Don't take these unnecessary risks. Even if you think you can handle yourself under the influence, you cannot control the idiots around you! Even being around teens drinking and using drugs puts you and your friends at great risk. Abstain! Don't do it! It may sound cliche now, but "Just say no!!!!!!"
Parents, talk to your teens. Warn them of the dangers. Share this story and others. Teen use of alcohol and drugs is not acceptable! It's dangerous and, we found out the hard way, can be deadly! Don't wring your hands and accept it as inevitable. Intervene, before it starts if you can, but most certainly once you know they're using. Do whatever it takes to get them to stop!
You don't want to walk in our shoes. I promise you that.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." -- Romans 8:28
Today I ran 17 miles in honor of Amanda, one mile for each of the 17 years she lived. Amanda's death was tragic, evidence of the pure evil that exists in the world today. But following her death, God led us to begin this ministry.
That 17 mile run is also meant to draw attention to the danger, a danger all too often underestimated by kids and parents alike, of teen alcohol and drug abuse. Share this story, with your kids, with your friends who have kids, with anyone you think might ever have kids.
In the days following Amanda's death, I didn't know much. I couldn't think clearly and don't remember much. But one thing I do remember, I knew I had to find a way to make something good come from it. I had to find a way to make Amanda's death count for something. I couldn't let her death be in vain.
God gave me the idea for this ministry and this mission to do just that, to bring good from the evil that we suffered. Please help us accomplish this mission. Share Amanda's story. It just might save a life.
If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.