Lee students learn first-hand lesson about impact of OUI
Photo Gallery | Mother speaks out against drunken driving to students
LEE - For 17 years, Lisa Brodeur, her son and two daughters have been on a physical and emotional roller coaster ride triggered by a drunk driver.
On Nov. 1, 1997, Brodeur, her husband, Michael, son Kyle, 10, and daughters Kimberly, 5, and Katie, 3, were traveling Route 20 in Oxford when a pick-up truck crossed over and slammed into their car — crushing the vehicle beyond recognition.
Michael Brodeur, who was driving, was killed instantly. Kyle's body was mangled, left almost completely paralyzed. Lisa and Katie were seriously injured.
Kimberly was shocked into silence.
Behind all the death and destruction was Keith Doucette, of Charlton, who chose to drive his pick-up under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
"In an instant I became a mother and a father – a single parent," Lisa Brodeur said. "My children and I then went on a journey no one should endure because someone was driving impaired."
On Wednesday afternoon, the Charlton woman presented, "A Mother's Journey," a story of heartbreak, resilience and hope to a packed auditorium of at Lee Middle and High School.
Before nearly 400 staff and students in Grades 6 through 12 from Lee Public Schools, nearby St. Mary's School and members of Pittsfield High School's chapter of SADD, Brodeur recalled how she and her children have struggled with the physical scars left by Doucette's actions.
The hour-long talk and video presentation recounted the horrific crash, Kyle's excruciating rehabilitation that includes 25 surgeries, her and her daughters' emotional struggles along with a simple message from Kyle, now 27.
"Don't drink and drive," he said on the video. "You don't want to be in a chair like me."
Kyle was in his custom-designed, motorized wheelchair in front of the stage as his mother spoke and the video played. He occasionally gave his signature thumbs up and smile to the crowd when his mother spoke of the good times.
Seated in the auditorium's front row were Lee High School freshman Hunter Roosa and Lee seventh-grader Caleb Kollmer, each encased in a body cast similar to what Kyle and his sister Katie wore the first few months following the crash.
The 60 minutes they spent in the protective outerwear was an eye-opener.
"About a half an hour in, my legs started to cramp up," said Roosa.
"You have to feel what [Kyle] felt — and he must have felt worse," Kollmer added.
Roosa, Kollmer and the rest of the student body were riveted to the stage, at times stunned by Brodeur's account of the immediate aftermath of the crash, like when she had to tell Katie and Kimberly their father was dead.
"Hearing my two daughters scream, 'I want my Daddy,' was horrible," she said, fighting back tears.
Brodeur often speaks to high school students, their parents and anyone who will listen about the life-altering consequences of impaired driving.
She also has worked hard to ensure Doucette remains behind bars.
After serving three years of a three- to five-year prison sentence for vehicular homicide, Doucette in 2005 was sentenced to 9-12 years behind bars for violations during his 10-year probationary period.
Doucette was arrested in Springfield for speeding and other charges nine years ago, Brodeur said, and he has shown little remorse toward her family.
Last March, she spoke against Doucette's request for parole after nine years in prison and vows to do the same this coming March, saying he deserves to serve the maximum 12 years.
"We have to remember, driving is a privilege – not a license to kill someone," she said.
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