They tell Ruth Specht to let it go.

Things are different now. That was 38 years ago.

And then, in last week’s Courier, she reads that the RCMP have arrested almost 1,000 impaired drivers in Nova Scotia in the last six months.

“When I see these numbers I know something is still terribly wrong,” she says. “If our system is working, why are there this many drunk drivers?”

Aug. 15, 1978 a drunk driver hit and killed Specht’s daughter, Melissa Armstrong.

Melissa was 8 and a half.

Melissa was standing on the side of the road in Mount Pleasant with her mother and two-year-old sister and two of the neighbours’ boys looking at a dead snake.

“It was just a normal day,” remembers Specht. “I had walked up to moms earlier that day and walked back home and we were outside enjoying a beautiful summer night. Everything just happened so quick.”

The driver came up the hill on the wrong side of the road passed by the others and hit Melissa who was holding her bike.

“It killed her instantly,” says Specht. “She went flying 50 feet through the air. I was there. I witnessed it. The last thing I remember was him walking back towards me and I lost it. I began to holler for help.”

Specht says the hardest part is she never got any help from the legal system.

“It was like they shut me in a room and said we don’t care what happens to you,” she said. “I was dealing with a lot of anger, not only dealing with her death, but also a system that didn’t care. They never told me anything about what was going to happen to him or what our rights were.”

The man who killed her daughter lived beyond her on the Culloden Road and she saw him drive by daily.

“He drove that car back and forth for months with a dent in it, the dent where he killed Melissa,” she says. “For months.”

 He did eventually serve some time but Specht says nothing compared to her sentence.

“You receive a life sentence because your loved one has been killed or injured,” she said. “Lives absolutely turned upside down because of a drunk driver.

“As the years passed, every Aug. 15 it’s in my mind like it just happened yesterday. All the special things that kids do, graduation, wedding, grandchildren that she might have had, that was all taken from me.”

Specht remembers Melissa as a very beautiful little blond girl who loved life.

“I still have her journals and in Grade 2 she wrote she wanted to be a nurse so she could help people,” says Specht.

In 1988, when Melissa should have graduated from high school, her classmates read a poem and held a moment of silence at graduation in her honour.

And they gave her her own page in the yearbook.

Specht says Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADDhas been a great help to her.

“I got to meet people who have gone through same thing,” she says. We relate and we bond. And now I help other people – I show them, one of the hardest things to deal with in your entire life, little by little you work through it.”

MADD now provides advocates for the families of victims, people who explain what to expect in court.

Specht would like to see drunk drivers stopped. But she doesn’t know what the answer is.

“I have no problem with people who drink, fine, have a drink, but stay the hell home, don’t roam,” she says. “Impaired drivers don’t have the right to go in the road and put people’s lives at risk.”

MADD Canada estimates that between 1200 and 1500 people are killed in impairment related crashes every year in Canada, or three or four a day.

MADD Canada estimates that somewhere in the order of 63,000 people are injured every year in impairment-related crashes in Canada.

Source: Nova News Now



Last updated on: 2014-09-18 | Link to this post