To the parents of Erica Buschick:
I just had to write you. The photos of your beautiful daughter haunt my newsfeed and my heart breaks for you. I have four daughters right around Erica’s age, and two currently at university. The tragedy that has happened to Erica is something that every college parent fears. We all warn our kids. Teach them. Hope and pray for them. At the end we have to let them go…leaving them at school and believing the best for them.
I can not fathom your heartbreak. I know there are no words to assuage the pain and I’m sure you have had enough well-wishers with advice and “if-only’s.” I’ve walked with enough friends through the pain of loosing a child to know that there are no answers that bring comfort.
So let me just tell you that I am deeply sorry from the bottom of my heart. It’s nothing, I know…but it’s the only something I can think to do. Raising such a lovely girl who was intent on serving the disabled with her education is an accomplishment. You were just on the threshold of enjoying the fruits of such hard work as Erica pursued her future. I am deeply regretful. Filled with sorrow.
And for everyone else who thinks they have an answer or that their child would never, here are a few yearly statistics…
With roughly 21,000,000 students currently enrolled in colleges and universities in America…
According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same timeframe. This means that roughly 36% of college students binge drink every month. If you have a university student currently, there is a 36% chance that your child has placed themselves in just such a dangerous situation IN THE PAST MONTH.
About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.
About 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
About 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
*All statistics directly quoted from the National Institute of Health.
Let those numbers sink in.
On so many levels.
But before we accidentally fall into judging this family, consider carefully. Don’t you think her parents had warned her? Taught her better? Don’t you think this young girl had been taught at freshman orientation about drinking, the dangers of alcohol poisoning, and the risks inherent to binge drinking and overconsumption? The tragedy seems preventable until we realize that these are just teenagers, just out of reach from reason on any given moment, prone to group-think and frequent losses of self control. I’m not excusing it, I’m explaining it. If I had a nickel for every time such a series of stupid decisions could have ended my life, my husband’s, or placed one of my own daughters in serious trouble–we could have retired long ago. Some drunken stories are hilarious afterwards…some are tragic. Unfortunately, there’s not much grey area in between those two extremes.
We see a story like this one of Erica and we are all touched by the fleeting life of such a beautiful girl. We all see the photos of their family, and if we are parents, we quickly place ourselves in the role of her loving mother or doting father. Erica was described as a “daddy’s girl.” We all struggle to even think about the life of heartache that her parents and two sisters will now face. As a way of relieving our own pain, we explain why and how it could never happen to one of us…to one of our children. How our kids know better, don’t and would never binge drink, would have seen the danger signs, would have stepped in, could have saved this girl’s life. We try to rationalize how this could never be us– justifying and judging the loved ones and family of this beautiful girl in the process. We fail to remember that irrationality is at the core of humanity. Stupidity and teenagers often go together like peanut butter and jelly. Foolishness, or missing serious symptoms, or overlooking the severity and gravity of the moment…that’s something that any one of our own teenagers has done a dozen times in various situations. Thanks be to God at any given moment if for us it has not led to tragedy…but in all seriousness, it could be any of us in the Buschick’s shoes.
Those of you without teenagers yet– walk in humility. I pray this never happens to any of us, but there are no guarantees.
Those of us with teens and young adults– print out her picture. Have the tough talk. Be real. Let your kids know that this stuff happens…at least 1825 college students will be BURIED this year due to alcohol-related injuries. That’s 3650 grieving mothers and fathers. Multiplied thousands of siblings, family members, loved ones, and friends. And death isn’t the only risk.
So please, let’s not let the loss of Erica Buschick just be one of those news stories we glance over and pitifully justify how it could never happen to us. In honor of her family, let’s make this loss count. Talk about Erica with your children. About how she was a kind soul who wanted to help kids with special needs. About how she volunteered as a local Best Buddy, to help kids with learning disabilities. Show your family the pictures of her and let them know that alcohol poisoning doesn’t care how pretty you are. How smart. What your future plans are or how kind you are to others. Let’s remind ourselves and our loved ones that alcohol poisoning is an equal opportunity offender and has the power to kill in any number of ways.