More than 325 Grant County students and staff members heard how Natalie Marti’s life was affected when a drunk driver crashed into her family’s car nearly 15 years ago.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7, Marti spoke to Grant Union and Prairie City students in John Day, and Dayville and Long Creek students in Dayville.
Grant County Safe Communities Coalition member Debi Hueckman was instrumental in bringing Marti to the area. Hueckman said it’s important for young people to realize how the choices they make can affect others.
She noted that Marti, who is from Meridian, Idaho, speaks two to three times a week to students and victims impact panels.
Marti became a widow the night of Feb. 27, 2003, when she was 23 years old. The car she and her husband, Shawn, and their 5-month-old daughter, Sage, were in was hit by a drunk driver who was traveling the wrong way on the freeway at 98 mph.
Her husband and daughter died on impact, and she suffered a traumatic brain injury, among many other injuries, which left her in a coma for three weeks and on life support. The drunk driver, who lost his hand and forearm in the crash, is serving 18 years in prison, and could face up to 40 years.
“He made the choice to drink,” she said of the drunk driver. “He made the choice to drive under the influence. Are you going to take the chance to make the choice to drink and drive, being a weapon on the road? The choices that we make are ultimately our responsibility.”
Marti said that when the drunk driver’s girlfriend and brother told him he caused the crash, he said there was a huge pain in his heart and he asked for their forgiveness.
“Raise your hand if you are 15 years old,” Marti said to students at the Grant Union gym.
Several arms shot up.
“That’s how old my daughter would be,” she said.
She said others were affected by the tragedy, including her parents, her husband’s parents, the first responders and the drunk driver’s family — he had a 1-month-old baby at the time of the crash.
“I hope I can add every single one of you as someone impacted in such a way that you’ll never do it,” Marti said.
She said it took six years to recover from the traumatic brain injury and she still suffers in other ways. People have told her she’s “lucky to be alive,” she said.
Her thoughts were, yes, “lucky” to have heartache the rest of your life, she said.
“After depression ... I realized I do want to live,” she said. “I want to live to help other people to not feel what I feel.”
This is the second time in four years Marti has shared her message with Grant County students. Hueckman said she was impressed at how Marti has turned something devastating into something impactful.
“As the holidays approach, this is a good message for everyone,” Hueckman said. “Never be under the influence and drive, and that doesn’t always have to be alcohol, it could be drugs such as marijuana.”
For more information on Marti, visit NatalieMarti.com.