The daily paper on Christmas Eve carried this story:
“Richard F. Morrow, 69, died when he was struck by a car in the village of Canton at 10:49 p.m. Mr. Morrow was pronounced dead at the scene. … Daniel W. Lester, 28, was driving northbound when he allegedly struck Mr. Morrow and fled, according to police. Police charged Mr. Lester with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree vehicular assault, leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident, driving while ability impaired by drugs, driving while intoxicated with prior convictions and aggravated unlicensed operation, all felonies.”
Who was Dick Morrow? He was a kind and gentle man, quiet but responsible. When he didn’t show up at his night shift as auditor at the local Best Western Hotel, the manager knew something was wrong. Dick was always there. Whether it was serving on the board of the Canton Church and Community Program (a local social service agency), or as treasurer of the local UU Church, volunteering with the Red Cross, advocating for bikers’ needs with a local biking group, shoveling the front walk at church (just because it needed to be done), teaching math at a local high school, or picking up the tab at the hotel for a struggling family, Dick was responsible. When he saw a need, he was there, quietly doing what needed to be done. He was my friend; he was a friend to everyone he met, but he asked for nothing but the opportunity to help anyone who needed it.
Who was Daniel Lester? I honestly don’t know. From the report in the paper, he was not a person known for being responsible… not responsible for himself, or for the rights of others. Anger swells up from within me. How could he have been so irresponsible that he got behind the wheel of his car, drunk and impaired by drugs? How could he run another person down and not stop to render aid? How could he continue on his way before crashing into another person’s house?
Anger is not an emotion commonly felt at this time of year, but it is anger that I feel today. Responsibility is what we all owe to each other. Responsibility was what guided Dick Morrow’s decisions throughout his life. I am angry today at all those who refused to be responsible that night – the one who chose to drive impaired, the one who left another human being dying on a cold winter road, anyone who was with Daniel Lester that night and who didn’t stop him from setting out on his deadly travels. I am angry because there are families tonight who must live with the aftermath of one man’s irresponsibility. I am angry at a culture that sees alcohol and drug use as a simple right, a personal matter.
What do I do with this anger? I honestly don’t know. I must of course pledge to take responsibility for my own actions everyday, but Dick’s model of responsibility to others is also a take-away from this tragedy. Responsibility as a neighbor and citizen must certainly play a role; it is simply not enough to shrug and say, “What can one person do?” One person could have saved Dick Morrow’s life.