If I met Sharon Budd, I know I’d like her. She’s from Uniontown, Ohio. She’s raised four kids and worked as a seventh-grade language arts teacher. She’s a breast cancer survivor.
On July 10 she was making a dream trip with her husband and 19-year-old daughter, Kaylee. They were on their way to New York City to see the Broadway production of “Mama Mia.”
It was almost midnight as they sped through the Pennsylvania countryside on Interstate 80. Kaylee was driving. Sharon, in the front passenger seat, had just finished a phone call with her son, Lucas. A member of the Ohio National guard, he was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in a few weeks.
Freeze frame that instant. Because right at that seemingly mundane moment, on a summer road trip like so many others, life for the Budd family turned into a living hell.
That’s when a football-sized rock crashed through her window, striking Sharon’s forehead. Somehow, Kaylee managed to stop the car. Sharon’s husband held her while they waited for help to arrive. He saw brain matter amid the blood and glass.
The cause of all this horror was four bored teenagers. They’d spent the evening creating low-grade havoc. They had broken some windows and driven through a cornfield. Then they decided to toss rocks from the Interstate overpass. One hit a truck and did some minor damage to the windscreen.
Then the ill-fated Budd family drove by. From 20 feet above, 17-year old Dylan Lahr allegedly dropped a 5-pound rock.
The quartet sped away as soon as they realized the car had been hit but returned twice to view their handiwork as rescue workers struggled to save Sharon Budd. A sharp-eyed state trooper observed their car and noted the tag number. That led to the arrest of two 17 year-olds and two 18 year-olds. They now face felony charges of aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and misdemeanor counts of propulsion of missiles into an occupied vehicle or onto a roadway, possessing instruments of crime and recklessly endangering another person.
Meanwhile, Sharon Budd has spent the last six weeks fighting for her life. She’s lost her right eye and a large portion of her brain’s right frontal lobe, the part that determines personality. She’s been moved to a rehabilitation center where she struggles to perform such tasks as sip water and sit upright. Her neurosurgeon, Atom Sakar, was quoted as saying, “We can say she’s not going to die but there’s a very far gulf between not dying and being the person you were.”
I thought of the Budd family when I read of the arrest of four local young men. They have been charged with criminal damage and terroristic acts after two cars were damaged by rocks thrown from the Interstate 985 overpass at Athens Street.
The door of a truck was damaged. But it’s the second car that makes me shake my head in disgust and wonder. The Honda Accord’s rear window was shattered and there was a 2- to 3-foot gash on the roof. Damage was estimated at $10,000. The fact that no one in the car was killed or injured should leave the occupants living the rest of their lives feeling blessed and protected.
The men charged with these offenses aren’t juveniles. Their ages range from 18 to 21. Old enough to know better and, but sadly, apparently not care. Why would someone that age, old enough to have children of their own, participate in such dangerous, stupid, possibly lethal actions?
At times like this, I think of a bumper sticker I once saw: “If you can’t be a good example you can at least be a horrible warning.” If these adult men are convicted of these acts, I hope their legal fates become a horrible warning. I hope every possible charge is thrown at them and I hope they all stick.
We can’t force people to grow a conscience or exercise good judgment not only when it directly benefits them but because it’s simply right. We can, however, hold their lives and fates up as cautionary tales for the rest of us. Look. THIS is what happens when you endanger innocent strangers. Everybody watch and remember.
Sharon Budd’s life has been changed, no, ruined, for no good reason. Someone’s life could have easily taken a similar turn on I-985 last Tuesday night. Let that be a horrible warning to us all.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.