Elva Diaz, the drunk driver who killed Rachel made a choice to get behind the wheel of her automobile and drive herself home even though she was fully aware of the likely fatal consequences (that’s why the Riverside D.A.’s office has issued a warrant for her arrest for second degree murder). Finding another way home was too much of an inconvenience. In her judgment, the life and safety of a fellow human being simply wasn’t worth the trouble it would cost to ensure.
The difference between first and second degree murder is intent. Elva Diaz didn’t plan to murder Rachel, even though, for Rachel and for us, the result is the same. As deplorable as her crime is, it wasn’t personal. Until recently. Whether she intended to kill anybody the night she killed Rachel is a matter for the court to decide. But the fact is, the subsequent harm she has inflicted and continues to inflict has been done with sober intent.
I don’t believe in good or bad people. I believe in free will. I believe in good or bad choices. Everyone is capable of anything. It’s simply a matter of choice. We make our choices and, in turn, our choices make us. The character of our choices can become habitual and develop into a life-style. The bargain of free-will is that we are accountable for the choices we make.
As human beings we do our best to make the best of the mess we make of the world because of our bad decisions. Justice isn’t built into the system. If it were, Elva would be dead and not my daughter. Ms. Diaz’ choice to drink and drive would have resulted in the loss of her life, not Rachel’s. What Elva did she cannot undo. Her fatal decision the night of February 21, 2008 determined the course of the rest of her life, a course that still allows her a range of choices, good and bad.
Once we have made a bad decision, committed a crime even, we must ask ourselves: What now? The best choices remaining may not be pleasant or easy, but even then we have the fearful responsibility to choose for good or for evil.
We don’t often get the chance to see what might have been. I found this article on the internet about a drunk driver who fled the scene of a crash that caused injury to another man. He was caught. When he sobered up and came to his senses he saw the error of his ways and, against his legal counsel, pled guilty to the charges brought against him and further pledged himself to make restitution for his crime. This man’s crimes are deplorable and worthy of punishment. But he has chosen the only path open to him to find redemption: admitting his wrong-doing and taking responsibility for his actions. His present choices will not change the past. However, he has chosen to set the course for the best possible future. Instead of choosing to continue to victimize his victim, this man has chosen to do the best he can do now to make amends.
I wish I could say the same for Elva Diaz, the woman who killed Rachel. I’m not interested in hearing about her alleged remorse. Her actions speak for themselves. At every step, Ms. Diaz has chosen her own self-interest without regard for the welfare or benefit of anyone else, including her own family. Rather than accept the consequences of her actions, she has chosen to skip bail and become a fugitive. Rather than dedicate her life attempting to redress the harm she has done, she chooses to continue to inflict pain on those who love Rachel. Rather than allowing us to begin to heal and put the dreadfulness of a criminal trial behind us, she ensures that the wound remains raw and open and delivers another blow on the bruise...
"The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it's only intangibles, ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create." - From the novel Choke by Chuck Palahnuik
It's not often that I get into a vehicle and DON'T think about Rachel and all of your family. I can still recall, so vividly, the years I knew Rachel, as well as the memorial service held at our high school. I remember the emotional overload that day, and especially the phone call from Erik the morning after the accident. Yet, even after the closure, that sense that it all still seems so unreal to me lingers a bit. So, I take it upon myself to try to tell Rachel's story to as many people as I can. I've seen people, having never even met her, so affected by the story, and I ask myself, "Why?". What is it that makes this person, or people, so able to understand where I'm coming from? Where the people who knew and loved her are coming from? I am sure that one reason could be a shared experience, but I like to think that it is very easy to get the point across to people what a wonderful person she was.
I agree with what you wrote, about good or bad choices. I could not have said it better myself. As I grow and learn, I notice many unsatisfactory things about people, and even about myself. What keeps me thinking positively is that I know people ARE capable of making good choices, among the many bad choices made by ourselves and others. Rachel has shown me this. Even at times when the two of us weren't getting along, I always came out of it having learned something, more often than not directly from the way she handled herself. I'd be hard pressed to meet a person as influential to me as she was, and still continues to be. You should be very proud. Even after her life has come to an end, she shows up every so often to lend a helping hand, and that says alot about the family that raised her.
I am very glad to have met Rachel, as well as Erik, your wife, and yourself. I hope you all are doing well, and that the cowardly person responsible for her death, for every mile she treks avoiding the consequences of her decision, starts to slowly feel the weight of the pain suffered by all of us that were so fortunate to know your wonderful daughter.
Andrew, I guess I'm not too good at following the comments left on the blog. I just discovered this one today, Feb. 8, 2010. Thank you for taking the time to write. I can't tell you how much Jill and I will both treasure your words. It means a lot to us that you remember Rachel and that you still learn from the relationship you had with her. We miss her and we miss having her friends, like you, around. All the best to you, Andrew. And thank you again for the thoughtfulness of your expression....Steve
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