Sorrow to Strength Our First Chapter

When Dad was killed by a tired trucker in 2004 we didn’t know what to do first. We knew we needed help but we didn’t know where to turn. In desperation a family member started searching the internet and found the Truck Safety Coalition. Their website back then was pretty simple, but it had a phone number and I called the next day. They provided information and support – and an invitation to a conference called Sorrow to Strength. I attended with my sister the next fall only 10 months after Dad was killed. I smile when I remember how young and naive we were then, not in calendar years, but in the ways of politics and Washington DC. I remember being incredibly hurt and thoroughly confused at that first conference. We were still reeling from losing Dad, and we couldn’t absorb all the information provided, but we could absorb the love and support. And we made lifelong friends.

During the first two days we listened to families tell their stories of loss and pain and outrage. So many of their stories sounded like ours. Some of the families had been fighting the fight for many years. We weren’t even sure what the fight was. But we knew we needed to help fix the problem of tired truckers – for Dad and for all these other people’s family members too.

Sunday night we had a remembrance service with photos of our loved ones. Those that could speak told stories about the ones lost; sometimes we laughed along, sometimes we cried together. The important thing was that we could share our folks with others, that they were not forgotten. It was important that people recognized our loved ones’ lives had been about much more than just the crash that took them.

Shortly after the remembrance ceremony we retired to our rooms to study the material we’d been given during the meetings. We were emotionally exhausted, but Monday morning we were going to visit our Senators and House of Representatives. Neither my sister nor I had ever visited a government office before so we were nervous and I don’t think either of us slept well.

But here’s the thing. I did not know then how easy it is to talk to someone in my Senator’s office about things I know are important. Who knew that you could just make an appointment and the staff would be gracious and listen? Who knew you could walk into any Senate or House office building and talk to your representative? Who knew you and I are just as important as the people we see walking government corridors on TV? That our voices and our stories are as or more important? That we can leave an impression, can change things, can fix things.

We met with people in small offices and big conference rooms for two days. We were exhausted but empowered. Maybe things didn’t change instantly after those first meetings. But I can guarantee the people that talked to us, looked at Dad’s picture, even cried with us, were changed. We left a little bit of our pain with other people in every meeting. And we gained a bit of strength with each time we told the story.

We left Washington DC after that first conference with hope. And we left a little bit stronger than when we arrived. Sure we were still hurting. But now we had a direction in which to move, a place to put the hurt. A way to make sure Dad was not forgotten.

That’s the power in Sorrow to Strength. We know we won’t ever be free of the sadness. But making our voices heard, saving other lives? Well. That’s what makes us stronger.

It’s for you Dad. And for all the others. You’ve made us stronger than we ever thought we could be. It’s all for you.