Friday, February 17, 2006
Too young to die
One of the most difficult stories for news outlets to handle is the death of a teenager.
That was the problem faced by local media this week after the death of Joplin High School student-athlete Christina Freeman in what authorities say is a drunk driving accident.
Though I haven't seen if there is anything in this morning's Globe, the coverage on KODE and KSNF last night was informative, but respectful. The media have to draw a fine line between the public's right to know and the desire of the family for privacy.
The death had a major impact on Joplin High School students, my former students have told me, and the effect was obvious on my students at South Middle School, as well. Many of them knew Christina and were having a hard time dealing with her death.
Christina's younger brother, Trevor, is in one of my communication arts classes. It is impossible to imagine what he is going through.
The funeral services were held yesterday. Christina was buried in the softball uniform that meant so much to her. The services, I am told, were a celebration of a life that ended much too soon.
I have read with disbelief postings on some of the area websites from people who accuse our legislators of cynical reasons for each effort they make to curtail the drunk driving problem in Missouri. When you have tragedies such as the death of Christina Freeman, the deaths of James Dodson of Neosho and his eight-year-old granddaughter Jessica Mann of Joplin, the death of Julie Phipps of Lamar and the decimation of that family due to a drunk driver with 22 prior convictions in 1995, there is simply no way we can stand by and allow these crimes to continue to occur.
That's why people should thank our local legislators for their efforts in this area. Despite the tragedies we hear about on a regular basis, drunk driving has been reduced, but it needs to be eliminated, and while that may not be possible, to allow it to continue without making the effort would be just as big a crime.
According to Newton County Circuit Court records, the first hearing for Joplin High School student Cory Simmons, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Christina Freeman's death is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 28.