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November 19, 2013 > Fremont community holds vigil in remembrance

Fremont community holds vigil in remembrance

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The Fremont community came together on the evening of November 16 to remember a young life cut short by a tragic accident. To commemorate Mission San Jose High School (MSJHS) student Jason Park who died in a DUI accident, Fremont Council PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and Mission San Jose High SchoolÕs Mission Possible PFA (Parent Faculty Association) hosted a community-wide Òcandlelight vigilÓ at Lake Elizabeth. A large number of parents, students, friends, local dignitaries and community members attended.

Liz Fischer of the Fremont Council PTA helped to organize the program, which also had as its focus, teen driver safety. Additionally, AAA (Automobile Association of America) provided a ÒParent-Teen Driving Agreement PledgeÓ form as a guide for families.

Ceremonies included a number of speakers: Traffic Sergeant Mark Dang, Fremont Police Department; Ujjwala Gadgil, President of Fremont Council PTA; Pastor Kevin Hom of Rejoice Ministries, Inc. and Pastor Doug Ingebretson from Fremont Community Church.

Sergeant Dang indicated that teenagers are more likely to be involved in collisions. ÒIt takes years of driving to get all the nuances and to have control of a vehicle. Driving collisions are the leading cause of death for teens. They [teenagers] are three times more likely to get into a fatal collision than those over the age 20, due to immaturity, inexperience, risky behaviors, drinking, not wearing seatbelts, distracted driving, and speeding,Ó said Dang. ÒDistractions all divert from the primary task of driving. Eleven percent of drivers under the age of 20 in fatal crashes were distracted and fifty percent who were killed, were not wearing seatbelts,Ó he added. Another sad fact: In 2011, over 32 percent of teens killed had high alcohol levels and 26 percent were alcohol impaired.

Sergeant Dang stated that he has investigated hundreds of collisions and urged teens to follow these rules to reduce the likelihood of being killed in a collision:

Always wear a seatbeltÑthey save lives!
No alcohol, or drugs and donÕt get into a car if someone is impaired.
DonÕt use a cell phone when driving.
Drive at a safe speed, at or below the speed limit.

Pastor Kevin Hom, who officiated at Jason ParkÕs memorial service, read a statement from the Park Family, unable to attend the vigil:

ÒThis is a bittersweet event as our family copes with the deep sorrow and loss of our Jason. I just want my son back to savor his presence. Sadly, that will not happen. To the teen drivers out there, please, please, please take to heart the importance of safe and responsible driving habits. The risks are real and the consequences are high! Poor choices were made by a group of friends that night and resulted in devastating consequences. Life is precious and fragile.Ó

All those in attendance at the vigil were then asked to light candles that had been distributed earlier, and to observe a moment of silence. Like beacons of hope, the candle flames flickered in the darkness. Pastor Hom asked those gathered to make a statement of commitment to adhere to driving rules, for parents to encourage their children to be safe, and to keep watch together and protect one another. Echoes of ÒBe safeÓ and ÒI will keep watch for youÓ were heard throughout the crowd.

Several students and parents related their own experiences, thoughts or remembrances of Jason. Fremont School Board member, Lara York said, ÒItÕs about the choices we make. Tell your friend when theyÕre doing the wrong thing. DonÕt be a bystander Ð donÕt go along with it. WhatÕs the worst thing Ð you donÕt get in the car or take their keys away? How can we stand up and lend a helping hand to do the right thing?Ó

Pastor Ingebretson ended the candlelight vigil with a prayer asking parents to be wise and know how to speak to their kidsÉ then the candles were blown out.

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