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drunk drivers, you choose, melissa macguinness

Mother speaks out about drunk driving.

This article originally appeared on September 13, 2019


Losing a child is a pain that many of us simply cannot comprehend. Given how much mothers and fathers love their sons and daughters, we can only begin to imagine how much pain they would feel when something terrible happens to their children. But for Melissa Hayes-McGuinness, a mom from Australia, the pain is even greater.

Her son, Jordan, died in a car crash in December 2012 at the age of 18. As did five other people who were unfortunate enough to cross Jordan when he was drink and drug driving at high speeds down a Gold Coast highway following a Christmas party. The five victims were sitting in a broken-down car waiting for help when Jordan collided with them at speeds of up to 87 miles per hour.

The sheer force of the crash caused the parked car to burst into flames. The only survivor was the 16-year-old driver of the parked car, who had to climb over his friends to escape the burning vehicle and suffered from severe burns and a head injury that still affects his memory to this day.

Among those killed in the parked car were a 20 and 23-year-old, their 15-month-old girl was orphaned. The other victims were 16, 17, and 18.


SOURCE: YOU CHOOSE / MELISSA MCGUINNESS

As you can imagine, Melissa has to deal with unimaginable grief on a daily basis. Not only for her son, but for those he killed, and those they left behind. But thankfully, Melissa has found a way to channel that grief positively. Every year, she travels across Australia speaking to teenagers about road safety. As part of her talks, she reads an incredibly powerful speech which she calls "Jordan's confession."

Her speech reads, in part:

"I would give anything that night to have just hit a tree and not left this horrendous legacy," Melissa begins. "Those kids didn't deserve what happened to them. In truth, I guess I did."

"I screwed up and paid the ultimate price. What I did was unforgivable," McGuinness continues, speaking on behalf of her son and addressing the orphaned girl, "I'm the reason you'll never see your mummy and daddy [again]."

Throughout the speech, Melissa shows photos of her son, including on his last day of school. Then, the photos changed to a news clip of the accident, showing blue flashing lights and twisted metal.

"Jordan was smart. Jordan was funny. Jordan was a great person, but none of that means anything now. None of it," McGuinness continues to tell the teenagers sitting in silence before her, many of whom are usually crying at this point.

"That's because he defined himself by his choices that night. He shaped a terrible and permanent legacy for himself, his family and his victims' families because he chose to drink, smoke [marijuana] and speed down that highway."

"And everything he did before that just pales in comparison."

"As much as there are hundreds of reasons to be proud of Jordan... he died in shame," his mother tells them, "This is how he's going to be remembered. There's no getting around that.

"My husband and I did not raise him to think that drink or drug driving was acceptable behavior, yet I stand up here as the mother of a kid responsible for the death of four kids from drinking and drug driving."

"Think of all the good stuff that you've done. Think of all the effort you've put into your life. Think of all the effort people who have loved you put into your life. And imagine all of that being wiped out by one stupid choice. Because that's the brutal reality of what happens."

"I still love Jordan profoundly, I miss him terribly... but this can't be sugarcoated. He defined himself permanently by his actions that night.

"There are accidents and there are choices. Jordan didn't have an accident that night. That's what happened to his victims. Jordan made a choice."

SOURCE: YOU CHOOSE / MELISSA MCGUINNESS

Melissa affectionately calls the teenagers she's talking to, particularly boys, "dirtbags." Why? Because they often think they're "ten foot tall and bullet-proof."

Following the death of her son and his victims, Melissa started the You Choose - Youth Road Safety campaign. It teaches young drivers about the devastating, life-long consequences of being reckless behind the wheel.

Melissa knew that most teenagers won't learn anything through a lecture, so instead, she channels her own grief by telling her own story.

"I'm not lecturing them about right or wrong, I'm demonstrating through actual lived experience what it's like to be on the receiving-end of what I was," Melissa told Yahoo News.

"I show them a clip from Jordan's memorial ceremony and I ask them to imagine while they're watching it what it might be like if their family was in the same predicament that my family's [going through]."

"But pretty much just taking them on this entire grief journey from where it started—as the excited teenager about to start his life to the horrible accident through one stupid choice one night. Then what it looked like for everybody else involved."

"The thing with... Jordan is he's relatable because he's just like any other kid there that's sitting in that auditorium... and I'm also relatable as the mum."

"[Through Jordan they're shown] this great kid that made this one stupid choice that could be any of those kids. Any of them."

Melissa says her talks are so powerful because she's the "perpetrator's mother."

The guilt of her son's actions have weighed so heavily on Melissa that she often felt like she "didn't have a right to grieve her son".

"Those kids were innocent kids, they were doing nothing wrong and my son behaved 100 percent irresponsibly and was completely responsible for their deaths."

SOURCE: YOU CHOOSE / MELISSA MCGUINNESS

Each time Melissa talks to a group of kids, it gets a little easier for her. It gets easier to watch footage from the crash, and somehow, it gets easier to watch footage of Jordan's then 10-year-old sister breaking down at the memorial service.

But one thing doesn't change. The reaction from the kids she's speaking to. Melissa says that no matter the type of school or the age of the kids, with very little encouragement, the kids always swarm her with hugs at the end of her speech. In most instances, she says, the instigator is usually the "biggest dirtbag in the room"

"I have a remarkable story to tell. It's the worst story. And I feel really compelled to share that with teenage kids," she told 9now.

"This is what is left behind: Here is the mum that has to attend your funeral, has to pick up the pieces. That car can become your own coffin."

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Part of what made him such a beloved singer was the uniqueness of his voice. From the time he was a young child singing lead for The Jackson 5, his high-pitched vocals stood out. Hearing him sing live was impressive, his pitch-perfect performances always entertaining.

No one could ever really be compared to MJ, or so we thought. Out of the blue, a guy showed up on TikTok recently with a casual performance that sounds so much like the King of Pop it's blowing people away.

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Bobby McFerrin is best known for his hit song “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” which showcased his one-man vocal and body percussion skills (and got stuck in our heads for years). But his musicality extends far beyond the catchy pop tune that made him a household name. The things he can do with his voice are unmatched and his range of musical styles and genres is impressive.

The Kennedy Center describes him: “With a four-octave range and a vast array of vocal techniques, Bobby McFerrin is no mere singer; he is music's last true Renaissance man, a vocal explorer who has combined jazz, folk and a multitude of world music influences - choral, a cappella, and classical music - with his own ingredients.”

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1989 video brings back strong memories for Gen Xers who came of age in the '80s.

It was the year we saw violence in Tiananmen Square and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The year we got Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" and Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's "Batman." The year "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons" debuted on TV, with no clue as to how successful they would become. The year that gave us New Kids on the Block and Paula Abdul while Madonna and Janet Jackson were enjoying their heyday.

The jeans were pegged, the shoulders were padded and the hair was feathered and huge. It was 1989—the peak of Gen X youth coming of age.

A viral video of a group of high school students sitting at their desks in 1989—undoubtedly filmed by some geeky kid in the AV club who probably went on to found an internet startup—has gone viral across social media, tapping straight into Gen X's memory banks. For those of us who were in high school at the time, it's like hopping into a time machine.

The show "Stranger Things" has given young folks of today a pretty good glimpse of that era, but if you want to see exactly what the late '80s looked like for real, here it is:

Oh so many mullets. And the Skid Row soundtrack is just the icing on this nostalgia cake. (Hair band power ballads were ubiquitous, kids.)

I swear I went to high school with every person in this video. Like, I couldn't have scripted a more perfect representation of my classmates (which is funny considering that this video came from Paramus High School in New Jersey and I went to high school on the opposite side of the country).

Comments have poured in on Reddit from both Gen Xers who lived through this era and those who have questions.

First, the confirmations:

"Can confirm. I was a freshman that year, and not only did everyone look exactly like this (Metallica shirt included), I also looked like this. 😱😅"

"I graduated in ‘89, and while I didn’t go to this school, I know every person in this room."

"It's like I can virtually smell the AquaNet and WhiteRain hairspray from here...."

"I remember every time you went to the bathroom you were hit with a wall of hairspray and when the wind blew you looked like you had wings."

Then the observations about how differently we responded to cameras back then.

"Also look how uncomfortable our generation was in front of the camera! I mean I still am! To see kids now immediately pose as soon as a phone is pointed at them is insanity to me 🤣"

"Born in 84 and growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, it’s hard to explain to younger people that video cameras weren’t everywhere and you didn’t count on seeing yourself in what was being filmed. You just smiled and went on with your life."

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"Life was better before the Internet. There, I said it."

"Not a single cell phone to be seen. Oh the freedom."

"It's so nice to be reminded what life was like before cell phones absorbed and isolated social gatherings."

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"Why do they all look like they're in their 30's?"

"Everyone in this video is simultaneously 17 and 49 years old."

"Now we know why they always use 30 y/o actors in high school movies."

As some people pointed out, there is an explanation for why they look old to us. It has more to do with how we interpret the fashion than how old they actually look.

Ah, what a fun little trip down memory lane for those of us who lived it. (Let's just all agree to never bring back those hairstyles, though, k?)