Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina First Lady Mary Easley and the mother of a student killed in an alcohol-related crash on Monday kicked off a statewide campaign to decrease underage drinking.
Operation Drive to Live is designed to raise awareness among teens of the dangers of drinking and driving. The first assembly was held at Wakefield High School, where five students have died in alcohol-related crashes in the past year.
Senior Sadiki Young died in January after the car in which he was riding in went off Wakefield Plantation Drive and tumbled down an embankment.
Young's mother, Rosemarie Newman, got the attention of an auditorium of bored Wakefield High seniors Monday by speaking of her son's death.
"He is now in God's hands. I'll never touch him again with (my) hands. I want to. I can't," Newman said."Was it worth it? What was he thinking?"
Six teenagers and one adult face charges in the accident. Christopher John Palmeri, 18, of High Holly Lane, is charged with manslaughter and drunken driving. Other teens are charged with using fake identification to purchase alcohol and trying to cover-up an underage drinking party after the wreck.
"Do I think alcohol caused my son's death? Do I think alcohol influenced the way these kids behaved afterwards? Damn right I do," Newman said.
After listening to Newman in silence, many students wiped away tears and said they were moved by her presence and her words.
"Everything she said has so much weight because she's going through this and there's so much pain," student Sarah Hilla said.
"It kind of made me think. If I was to have made a bad decision and something had happened to me and to think about my mom being put in that position, it really touched me," student Breanna Freeman said.
Easley and state Highway Patrol troopers delivered a strong message about what alcohol does to students' minds and bodies. The campaign also includes troopers conducting driver safety education classes and enforcing traffic laws at high school campuses across the state.
"There has been so much pain and loss here at Wakefield," Easley said. "It's everybody's business. The solution is everybody's responsibility."