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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. Mission San Jose High School (MSJHS) student Jason Park had died in a DUI accident. Fremont Council PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and Mission San Jose High School’s Mission Possible PFA (Parent Faculty Association) hosted the community-wide “candlelight vigil” at Lake Elizabeth, which drew a large number of parents, students, friends, local dignitaries and community members.

Liz Fischer of the Fremont Council PTA helped to organize the program, which also had as its focus -- teen driver safety. Additionally, AAA (Automobile Assoc. of America) provided a “Parent-Teen Driving Agreement Pledge” form to be used as a guide for families.

There were a number of speakers including: 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 get into collisions. “It 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 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,” said Dang. “Distractions 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,” 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. He urged teens to follow these rules to reduce the likelihood of being killed in a collision:

Always wear a seatbelt—they save lives!
No alcohol, or drugs and don’t get into a car if someone is impaired.
Don’t use a cell phone when driving.
Drive at a safe speed, at or below the speed limit.

Pastor Kevin Hom, who had officiated at Jason Park’s memorial service, read a statement from the Park Family who were unable to attend the vigil. Here is a portion from what was read:

“This 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.”

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 “be safe and I will keep watch for you,” was heard throughout the crowd.

Several students and parents came up to relate their own experiences, thoughts or remembrances about Jason. Fremont School Board member, Lara York said, “It’s about the choices we make. Tell your friend when they’re doing the wrong thing. Don’t be a bystander – don’t go along with it. What’s the worst thing – you don’t get in the car or take their keys away? How can we stand up and lend a helping hand to do the right thing?

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

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