A Chance Meeting That Will Forever Change Lives

Two thirty-somethings were unaware of the other's existence.  Both of them got into their respective cars.  Each having made decisions that have and will impact others.

32-year-old Jason Marles worked his job for a very respectable nine years.  This married man and father of two precious children just finished the late shift.  At 3 AM, he unlocked his Jeep Cherokee, got in and headed home, grateful for another work day finished, no doubt.  Jason liked to spend his free time mentoring children and helping them stay out of trouble.

A 2010 BMW X7 must have made 31-year-old Erick Uzcategui very proud.  A beautiful machine, luxurious, it must have turned heads as it went down the street.  Erick's activity of choice before he got in the car was to drink, a lot apparently.

The two men met that day on the Garden State Parkway when Erick's BMW slammed into the rear of the  Cherokee driven by Jason.  So great was the impact that Jason's vehicle spun and struck the guardrail, flipped over and rested upside down against a tree.  The Cherokee burst into flames and Officer Jason Marles died in the wreckage.  He didn't have a chance.  Twenty minutes after completing his shift in a special anti-drunken driving detail, Officer Marles' life was taken by such a driver.

There's more to the story.  Several occupants got out of the BMW and fled the scene of the accident.  They were rounded up by Toms River police and state troopers.

I have heard enough people say that my choices don't impact anyone else.  Just leave me alone.  Yet, each one of us makes decisions that impact or even alter the lives of others, for good or for bad.

To digress a bit, at my siblings' house today, the Maury Povich show was on.  I was shocked to see Maury's program descend to the level of Jerry Springer since I used to watch his program years ago.  It was a review and update program on the lives of several families, couples, and relational trauma victims.  The collateral damage of poor decision-making impacted friends, couples and the sweet-faced babies whose portraits graced the screen.  On the television, I watched another series of wrecks take place but these were in slow-motion and the total consequences of those collisions wouldn't be known for years.

Getting back to Erick and Jason, these two relatively young men impacted others in incredible ways.  Erick brought grief and heartbreak to the Marles family, to the kids Jason mentored, to Jason's fellow officers and to the community he so faithfully served.  And I am sure there may be at least one parent or grandparent who is grieving the loss of a child's innocence and the pain he brought upon so many others by his senseless, reckless and careless behavior.  Erick gets to live another day, Jason wasn't so fortunate.

On the other hand, much good came out of Jason's life.  He started a family, served his country and his community as an officer, and mentored others.  Grief is also pouring out from his family but for a very different reason.  His was a life well lived and cut short way before his time.

You don't think your choices impact others?  Remember, no man, or woman, is an island.  What we do with our lives has a great impact on those we know and others we do not know.  The question is, "Whose example will you follow?  Officer Marles' or Erick Uzcategui's?"  The keys to your future and the lives of so many others are in your pocket.  What will you do with them?

Original story:  http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20101126/NEWS01/11260325/

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