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Loss And Healing

August 25, 1996

I would like like to thank you for the objective and even-handed article, "The Accident" (by J.R. Moehringer, July 28). I am the English teacher at Katella High School alluded to in the article, whom James Patterson came to with the question about the word "opprobrium" and its applicability to his situation. It was clear that he was hurting more than people cared to realize. That the accident was an unintentional event should be obvious. That the boys all participated in a risky behavior pattern over time should also be obvious. James now carries all the guilt. That law says he is responsible: So be it.

Everyone who knew the boys involved felt pain, and teachers felt it in a special way. We know and understand the ways of the adolescent. In my 40 years of teaching I have seen no significant change in the inherent nature of the adolescent. It is the context in which we live that has changed. Who protects the young from the world these days?

Society in Southern California provides tacit approval for everything that led up to the tragedy. The media and its advertisers foster an attitude that encourages risky behavior. Recently, Tom Bradoc of Shakespeare Orange County spoke to a group of Anaheim students about his production of "Macbeth." He described Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as two people who "had lost their moral compass." For me, "The Accident" is a story of too many people without a working moral compass.

Fred Myers

Anaheim

*

If James Patterson is as smart as he appears to be, then he should be intelligent enough to accept responsibility for what he did, as well as to know that as a designated driver, you do not drink at all. Having 10 beers and then sleeping a few hours does not cut it.

If neither James nor his friends fail to see his drinking as the cause of the accident, and do not change their behavior as a result, then four lives will indeed have been lost in vain.

Steven Orvis

Burbank

*

We have become a nation of blamers. We blame the various systems, neighbors, parents and, in this case, James, the driver. And yet no one was without responsibility.

The "poor judgment" of James and his friend did not begin in one instantaneous moment. Their ability to make decisions had been forming for 18 years, aided or hindered in some way by every person in that courtroom. The mark of integrity is shown by those who can say, "What part of this could I be responsible for?" Those who can confront that truth will ultimately be able to turn our society around.

Jan Seeley

Mission Hills

*

"The Accident" left me with a heavy heart. And the condemnations of James make my heart even heavier. He needs much counseling and support. How can people react in such a vicious way?

I hope all concerned can arrive at a point at which the long, painful process of healing can begin. In memory of the four lost youths, we should all work toward preventing such tragedies, as difficult as this task may be in today's ultra-permissive atmosphere.

Robert C. Lutes

Temple City

*

What are the parents thinking? It is they who should share equally in the responsibility for their sons' deaths. They condoned the use of alcohol among the boys. What did they expect? How can they judge James, who thought he made a good decision? The healing process will never begin for these people if they can't forgive themselves and James.

Melody Grigsby

Long Beach

*

The parents should take a good look at themselves and the way they raised their boys before passing judgment and blame. They were fully aware that their sons drank. As the mother of two teenagers, I strongly believe that parents should open their eyes to what's happening in their own homes, and stop blaming others.

Kathy Clarke

Anaheim

*

I believe the parents of Jonothan Fabbro, Steven Bender, John Thornton and Tony Fuentes Jr. should look at the parents of James Patterson and say, "There but for the grace of God go I." Their sons drank and their sons drove cars. It was a tragic luck of the draw that James was driving that day. It could have been any one of their sons.

Instead of punishing James, they should be speaking before school assemblies and civic groups. They could send the message to parents that looking the other way when your children drink is not cool.

Betty Bridgeman-Shannon

Huntington Beach

*

This was no accident. This was a recipe for disaster. James is right, any one of them could have been at the wheel.

I saw only one villain while reading the piece: Geo Fuentes. Her heartless and judgmental treatment of her grieving father is reprehensible.

Eileen Flaxman

Los Angeles

*

I was surprised that the article did not address the issue of whether or not these young men fastened their seat belts.

Marchelle Tosdal

Long Beach

*

Moehringer responds: Of the four teenagers killed in the accident, two were wearing their seat belts and two were not. Jonothan Fabbro and John Thornton had fastened their seat belts, Tony Fuentes Jr. and Steven Bender had not.

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