By Leia Baez
Everyone has the freedom to make decisions but sometimes those decisions may be wrong and change a person’s life forever.
Conrad Jones, a 22-year-old Bellevue West graduate, had his whole life ahead of him. He was outgoing, friendly and highly involved with athletics. But just as everything seemed to be going perfectly for Jones, four months before his marriage, one decision changed his life forever.
Sid Sherry, treasurer of the Metro Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, informed UNO students of the consequences of drinking and driving in a speech Tuesday afternoon. The event, held in the Dodge Room of the Milo Bail Student Center, concluded Alcohol Awareness Week at UNO.
Sherry, who is Jones’ older sister, said she wishes she could stand in front of everyone and say, “My brother was killed by a drunk driver,” but instead she said her brother was a drunken driver.
Jones and his best friend were killed instantly Feb. 17, 1995, after celebrating in Fremont. When students viewed the pictures of the maroon Chevrolet Beretta Jones was driving before the accident and witnessed the damages of the wreck, the room became silent. The car had been completely crushed and the steering wheel bent in half.
Jones’ accident caused a lot of heartache and grief for Sherry. Since the siblings were young, Sherry raised Jones while their mother worked. Sherry said her life has changed drastically since her brother’s accident.
“It’s a lot harder to let my kids drive and go out to have a good time,” Sherry said. “I have nightmares and I don’t sleep. I don’t think I have had a full night of sleep in seven years.”
Sherry said it wasn’t only her brother’s accident that influenced her to volunteer for MADD. About a year ago, Sherry’s son was ticketed as a minor in possession of alcohol. That’s when Sherry knew it was time to make a change.
Sherry decided to volunteer for MADD so she could relieve some of her pain through telling her story. She said she attended a therapy group, but there was something missing. Sherry said MADD was able to fill the void.
“MADD is better that any therapy I’ve ever had,” she said. “If I can help one or two people, that’s what matters.”
Through Sherry’s story and words of pain, she stressed the importance of using designated drivers and making the right decisions.
“There is nothing wrong with a few cocktails but know your limit,” Sherry said. “You just need to realize you have to make a conscious choice before you get behind the wheel. There are consequences for everything you do.”
Sherry said MADD has already managed to make a change in Nebraska, even though she believes Nebraska’s laws are not as strict as they need to be. The legal blood/alcohol level for legal age drinkers was changed from .1 to .08, partially due to MADD’s influence.
For Sherry, a dream of what her brother would be doing if he were alive is all she has left. She said Nebraska must enforce drinking and driving laws in order to make a difference. Until then, she will continue to contribute what she can with her story.
“This is my reality,” she said. “I am trying to get the picture out there so other families don’t have to go through the reality my family has to go through because it can happen to anybody.”