My Second, and most difficult, Sorrow to Strength Conference

Almost Conference Time….

I’m just back from New York; there are five days in this school week and Friday is a midterm so I’m concentrating on that. Other homework and readings are getting put off. Then Saturday I fly to Washington DC to attend the “Sorrow to Strength” Conference. I’m there through Monday night, so next week will be pretty crazy. I wish I wasn’t going to Washington because I already feel like I’m behind in work. But this conference is something I owe my Dad, my siblings and myself. So I go. But I’m taking my laptop and somehow, somewhere, in between sessions I need to get some homework done!

Midterms Over, the real test begins…

My second of two midterms is now completed. Though I don’t know how I did on either of them yet, I am not that concerned. Talking to other students reassures me that though I didn’t do great, I didn’t totally bomb them either.
Tomorrow morning I leave for Washington DC. The three days are filled with talking about big rigs and trucking issues, unexpected death, meaningless loss, and more importantly what we can do about it. There is a certain comfort in spending time with so many people who are hurting the same way I am. But the closer the conference comes, the more sad I get. It makes me realize the depth of my loss, and worse, makes me face up to the reality of it.

This year I have an added responsibility to make sure the family here in Michigan, whose daughter was killed last July, gets around Washington OK. I want them to feel comfortable and to get the same sense of value we did last time we were there. That there was something, no matter how small, that we could do to make a difference. That’s all any of us want. We want to make a difference so that the people we loved who were killed in horrible crashes will make a difference.
Midterms won’t make a difference. Maybe getting a degree won’t make a difference, though I hope it will. But saving one person’s life; making changes in rules or regulations or just in awareness that ultimately saves one person’s life. THAT is what will make a difference.

Sorrow and Strength

I’m back from Washington DC where I attended the Sorrow to Strength conference hosted by the Truck Safety Coalition. The objective of the Coalition is to support the enforcement and strengthening of safety laws surrounding large trucks. I do this because my Dad was killed by a tired trucker. His death was senseless and what’s worse, more people are dying at the hands of tired truckers every day. Fourteen will die today. In fact, more than 5200 people have died in each of the years since Dad’s 2004 death. Over 10,000 people have died in similar crashes since we got that life changing call December 23, 2004. The figures were similar each year prior to his death as well. The trucking industry seems to think this is a cost of doing business. I am beginning to believe it’s outright irresponsible, valuing profit over safety. Their motivation is profit. My motivation is safety. Do we need to kill 5200 people a year in order to get cheaper goods on our store shelves? Would we be willing to pay a few cents more for items to avoid the deaths of so many people? I think everyone would agree that saving 10 cents on our next microwave is not worth the death of a single stranger. Certainly not worth the death of people we know and love.

So the sorrow in the title of our conference revolves around remembering the people we loved who are lost. We had a wonderful grief therapist speak. We held a remembrance ceremony where we sat in a candlelit room and spoke about what we missed about our loved ones. We cried. We hugged. We cried some more. We got angry.

We took that anger and channeled it into something strong, the strength of our conference, when we met with Senators and Representatives’ staff people on Monday, telling our stories and asking for help on multiple truck safety issues. This year I didn’t feel the energy of Capitol Hill. I didn’t feel the hope and promise I felt last year – maybe because I was talking to some of the same people about the same issues as last year. Maybe I am becoming more realistic about change. Maybe my feet just hurt and distracted me. Regardless I am not going to let the feeling of hopelessness overtake me. The mission remains the same; get tired truckers off the road, enforce the laws that are already on the books, and change some laws to make the movement of goods in this country a safer industry.

I know that the trucking industry has a lot of money and a lot of influence on Capitol Hill. I know I’m just one voice, one face. But my face had tears streaking down it, and my voice trembled in anger and pain when I spoke. My eyes locked on Capitol Hill staff’s eyes and dared them to ignore my pleas. I won’t go away. I’ll be back. Again and again I’ll force them to listen to my heartbreaking story and the stories of all the families that I was with this weekend. If staffers want to stop the pain of having to listen to horrible stories then they need to stop the pain the trucking industry is imposing on helpless people who just got in the way of commerce.

A Dominated Strategy

In 502 this morning we were discussing game theory. Along the way Professor Chen mentioned that game theory is useful in real life as well as games. She said that in real life a strictly dominated strategy will never be the best reply. I wrote that down to think about later. It resonated with me after my weekend in Washington D.C., a weekend filled with frustration at the slow moving bureaucracy, at the realization that many more people will die as we wait for safety regulations to catch up with the reality of today’s highways. I think our meetings with Senators and House members were nice, but I think we were playing a dominated strategy. We are talking to people that don’t (can’t or won’t) make the decisions to make changes. I think we need to be talking to the people that can and will make those suggestions and can and will write the legislation that we need.
I think after two years of feeling like I’ve been dominated by the trucking industry it’s time for me to figure out a better reply…to figure out the BEST reply, so that I (and others working for the Truck Safety Coalition) have the best chance at getting a dominant equilibrium.