Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

A Mother's Plea

Posted March 20, 2007 9:30 a.m. EDT

Listen to her, listen closely.  That's all that Dr. Rosemarie Newman is asking parents and teenagers to do.  Listen, pay attention, your life may depend upon it...

Newman is a small woman with a measured voice, the voice of a mother, the voice of a mother who is grieving.  Like a well-constructed symphony her passion and anger build when she speaks.  Suddenly, out of nowhere she is shouting to no one in particular, maybe to her son in heaven, she screams up at the sky: "What was he thinking?"  There is stunned silence in the auditorium at Wakefield High School.  Newman's pain hangs in the air like a black cloud enveloping the solemn crowd.

Was he thinking that he might lose his life when he got into a car with a driver who had been drinking?  No.  Was he thinking that it wasn't a good idea to go to a party where underage people were drinking alcohol?  No.  Was he thinking when his mother repeatedly callled him on his cell phone and asked him to come home that he should act accordingly?  No.

Newman is mad.  She is mad at her son for not paying attention, not listening this one time.  "It's not about good kids and bad kids," she says.  Even good kids make bad choices.  Her son, Sadiki Young, whose picture fills the stage in the auditorium with a mega-watt smile that you simply cannot turn away from, was a good kid.  But Newman believes the bad choices he made that night contributed to his death. 

Newman does not tread lightly.  She does not sugarcoat the tragedy with memories of happier times.  She tells it like it is.  Young will not graduate this year from Wakefield High School with the rest of his class.  He will never kick a soccer ball again, play the guitar or take a planned summer trip to England with his family.  He will never wear a robe and carry the cross down the aisle at his church again.  He will never again hug his mother. 

Are you listening?  Are you paying attention?  Newman hopes so.  As the mother of girls who will someday be teenagers I know I am.

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