I am haunted by the Diane Schuler story. I can’t shake it. I go back to Google again and again, searching for the latest news updates and blog posts about the hideous, horrific crash which she caused, and which claimed a total of eight lives. I read and read and try to find information that will shine a light on the murk and mess of her final hours.

Twice the legal level of alcohol in her bloodstream, the equivalent of ten shots. Weed in her system. Booze consumed so recently it had not yet metabolized in her body. The broken bottle of vodka found under the seat of the wrecked minivan.  

The husband’s press conference, his pathetic, infuriating denial. The lawyer, despicable. She had diabetes/a stroke/an abscessed tooth, they suggest. Absurd claims the coroner’s report flatly contradicts.

The lone survivor, Diane Schuler’s son — the little boy released from the hospital today. His mother and sister and cousins are dead. What does he remember? We’ll probably never know – the police have said they don’t plan to talk to him.

My son is one year older than that little boy, one year younger than one of the girls who died. It’s impossible for me not to think of him when I imagine the final chaotic minutes in that minivan – the fatal turn onto the Taconic, the two-minute terror ride going the wrong way. The final impact. Did the kids cry? Did they scream? Did they beg her to stop, to slow down? Did they cling to each other? Did they close in on themselves and just surrender to the inevitable?

I can’t shake this story.

I am raging at a woman I never knew, a woman who is dead and buried. God forgive me but I am full of contempt for her, for her stupid choices, for her weakness. Weakness to let her drinking spiral out of control. Not to seek help. I’ve been around alcoholics, I’ve been caught up in the toxic swirl of their bullshit. Don’t quote twelve steps at me and ask me to absolve the alcoholic for her sins because she was in the “grip of her disease.” Don’t you dare tell me it was the disease that killed those people. Those babies.

Diane Schuler killed three adults and four children. Not the disease. SHE CHOSE. Some say she was not a bad mom. I hear that and it makes me physically ill.

  1. August 14, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Some mistakes are simply too big to fix.

  2. August 14, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I’m not even sure that I can form coherent thoughts on this.
    What a horrific tragedy, such senseless loss.

  3. August 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    What can the husband say. How do you process this. How do you try to make sense of it all. His life has just been ripped apart.

    When I put myself in his place I haven’t the foggiest idea what I’d do.

  4. Mave
    • ssmirnov
      August 17, 2009 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks for sharing the NYTimes story. I hadn’t seen it.

  5. August 24, 2009 at 2:43 am

    I can’t tell you why but I can’t shake this story either…I keep thinking about it over and over and I know nothing about this woman but I can’t help how this horrible tragedy keeps seeping into my mind…a car full of innocent children she was responsible for AND another car full of innocent people…how can one person be that selfish and irresponsible with all of those lives…I’m sorry that I have little to no empathy for this woman…my mom always taught me that there are two sides to every story…i’m just having a hard time seeing hers.

    • ssmirnov
      August 24, 2009 at 9:43 am

      Me too, Barbara. That’s part of what makes it so horrible — that I can’t find a shred of sympathy or compassion for another human being, a fellow mother, a woman who on the surface is so recognizable to me. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  6. Marian Cutler
    September 2, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I share your inability to process this tragedy. I happened to travel the Taconic that afternoon — picking my oldest up from camp. We were close to where the accident happened so while completely annoyed at the delays and the traffic, it was relatively easy to scoot past. At the time, none of the details were visible, just a fully burned out shell of a car. As my full minivan, with my three daughters safely strapped in (10, 3 and 1), passed her car I said a prayer out loud for those involved. My oldest asked why I did that and looking in the rearview mirror stated from a place of wisdom we seldom know we possess, “Sometimes accidents happen so quickly no one remembers to call for divine help; I wanted God to know he was needed today.” And, then I slowed down, took extra time with my turns and braking fully aware of how my precious girls placed all of their trust in me to get them home to Daddy.

    • ssmirnov
      September 2, 2009 at 6:53 pm

      Your comment brought tears to my eyes. I can’t believe you witnessed the Taconic aftermath firsthand. I’ve had a similar reaction driving past other crashes, always doing a silent “god bless” as I pass and thinking not to think that we’re all just one car length away from disaster. I suppose if we let ourselves dwell on those thoughts, we’d never get out of bed in the morning!

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