Helen Witty thought she had taught her children all about the dangers of drinking. She was raised with the knowledge that her great-grandfather’s alcoholism had led him to suicide. “It’s in the family,” her mother warned her. In a classic expression of the ripple effect of harmful drinking, Witty kept her own consumption modest. And she taught her two children to understand and to be careful of the long shadow cast by other people’s drinking.
But what none of the family had prepared for was the day when Helen Marie, Witty’s 16-year-old daughter, stood in the drive of their Florida home wearing her skates; she wanted to destress before a big school play. She flipped around, blew her mother a kiss and said she would be right back.
She didn’t return. When her father went to look for her, he found a crime scene. Helen Marie had been hit while skating on a bike path by a 17-year-old driver who had been drinking tequila and smoking cannabis. Instead of bringing his daughter home, her father had to identify her body.