Five years ago tonight we received the call that would change our lives. "You need to call this number. And I want you to be prepared. I think Amanda has been shot." That's what Amanda's friend told me after receiving a call from a Cleburne County deputy.
That's the night we lost our oldest daughter, Amanda. She was at a party. Her killer was drunk and stoned. He pulled out a sawed off shotgun and killed her. Five years ago tonight. January 15, 2011. Four days before her 18th birthday. Four months before she would have graduated high school. She never made it to either.
Everyone at that party was either drunk, stoned, or both. Under the influence of mind-altering substances. The oldest was 19. Nobody there was old enough to buy alcohol legally, yet they all had access to alcohol and illegal drugs.
I believe, with everything in me, that if everyone there that night had been sober, Amanda would not have been shot and she would not have been killed. Heck. Maybe if ANYONE at that house had been sober she would still be alive today!
Everyone seems to think this day is harder for us to deal with than other days. It is hard. But everyday is hard. Every day. We don't suddenly remember that we lost our daughter on the anniversary of her death. We remember that every single day. We don't suddenly miss our daughter on the anniversary of her death. We miss her every single day.
And though every day is hard, though we miss her every single day, we have learned to keep going, to get through, and to get by. We've made it five years now. We'll keep making it.
I appreciate all of you who thought of us today and who prayed for us today. Your thoughts and prayers got us through those early days before we ever thought we could keep going, and they continue to give us strength. So please keep them coming.
But I have another request. Not for us, but for all the parents who will soon join this brotherhood to which no one wishes to belong. Every year, more than 5000 young people die because of alcohol abuse. I have been unable to find numbers that show the number of young people who are killed because of illegal drugs each year. But together, illicit drugs and alcohol, directly or indirectly, take the lives of thousands of young people each year.
That means thousands of parents', siblings', and other relatives' lives are ripped apart by teen substance abuse every year. Because of teen substance abuse.
So my request is this. Please pray for all the people who WILL lose a young family member this year because of teen substance abuse. Pray that thousands of teens will be reached with the message and recognize the dangers and refuse to partake, so their lives will be spared and their parents' hearts remain unbroken.
Sadly, our society of late is practically encouraging teens to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Our entertainment industry, and even our politicians seem to want our young people drunk and stoned. And as the number of young abusers increases, so does the number of their cadavers in our nation's morgues...because they chose to abuse alcohol and drugs.
So please, when you think about Amanda, on this day or any other, don't just pray for us. Pray also for all those like us--who have lost kids to this epidemic, all those who will be like us, and all the young people out there--who still have time to wake up, recognize the danger, and refuse that drink or that hit that might just end their life.