Loss remains so very precious

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Editorial: May 12, 2013

ISSUE: 25 years after the crash
OUR VIEW: A life-alerting moment

You want it all to mean something. So much horror and so much pain. There must be a higher purpose, lessons to be learned.

A drunken driver headed in the wrong direction on a curvy, hilly stretch of interstate in the dead of night. Miraculously, several cars manage to avoid this reckless, thoughtless motorist. An aged, used school bus belonging to a Radcliff church was not as fortunate.

Not only did the vehicles collide but perhaps in the worst possible manner. A fuel tank located behind the primary entry door ruptured. A random spark ignited and the bus became a fireball. A day of innocent fun at a theme park instantly transformed into a night of terror.

Flames and screams. Smoke and confusion. Resourcefulness and panic. Horror and helplessness. Life and death.

After a quarter century, that collision on Interstate 71 in Carroll County remains the worst drunken driving crash in American history.

It also remains a life-altering instant in the lives of the 40 survivors, the loved ones of the 27 who died and the Radcliff community which carries a variety of personal and emotional scars.

The bus crash influenced revisions in drunken driving regulations plus a change in attitude toward tolerance that has kept a focus on enforcement. It led to changes in school bus safety, including additional exits, protection for the fuel tank and conversion from gasoline to less combustible diesel fuel.

It also spawned untold nightmares. It disrupted lives and derailed dreams. It took away the innocence of a generation of children who returned to school the next Monday to be confronted by the empty desks of their dead or injured classmates.

Physical scars healed long ago. Emotional scars are more difficult to access. In some ways, the new documentary and news coverage of the anniversary trigger buried memories. Today for the 25th time, a group of parents must remember the Mother’s Day messages in 1988 that alerted them to the fiery crash.

But it’s important to remember. It can be healthy to mourn. Our precious loss still means something.

The treasured, yet fragile nature of life must not be forgotten. Tomorrow must never be taken for granted. Loved ones should be cherished as if today provided the final opportunity to express those thoughts.

There’s no logic in tragedy. Confronted with that reality, it’s important that we rely on love and prayer.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.