For most people, watching a family video brings a smile to their face. For Idaho resident Natalie Marti, it’s a reminder of how her life will never be the same.
During two assemblies at Douglas High School on Wednesday, Marti told her story about the night a drunk driver killed her husband and 5-month-old daughter, and left her in a coma.
“My family was killed by a drunk driver, and I don’t want people to feel the immense pain I felt,” the 33-year-old said. “This did not have to happen. I hope and pray this never happens to any of you guys.”
Sponsored by the Partnership of Community Resources, Marti’s presentation was a follow-up to last year’s Every 15 Minutes program.
“The quality of her presentation, the message is unbelievable. This is one we had to have,” Principal Marty Swisher said prior to the assembly. “After watching this program there is no way I would get into a car with someone who was under the influence or distracted. The price is too high. That’s the message today, make the right choice.”
Marti and her family were driving home on Interstate 84 when they were hit head-on at 98 mph. Their car was torn in half by the impact.
“I had no idea I would become a widow at 23 years old. I had no idea I would lose my daughter at 5 months and 9 days old,” Marti said. “I was not in a car accident. It’s no accident to drink and drive.”
Tears welled up in the students’ eyes as family videos and photos were shown followed by news clips from the accident and photos from the funeral and Marti’s recovery.
“He has no memory of driving on the freeway. He has no memory of driving head-on into me and killing my family,” Marti said of the drunk driver. “He just remembers drinking one-and-a-half beers. His life is changed forever.”
The driver lost his left arm, and is 10 years into a 40-year maximum sentence.
“I think about what his life will be like for him after he gets out of prison. I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow he must be feeling, but I’m glad he feels bad for the choice he made,” Marti said. “This has changed me, and I hope my story has changed you — to never ever put yourself in Edgar’s (the driver) shoes. You guys have prom coming up, and I encourage you all to not let alcohol be a part of that.”
Douglas senior Jordan Chappell took part in last year’s Every 15 Minutes program, and said Marti’s story made the issue of drunk driving more personal.
“It was really sad, and super impactful, especially the video. The choices you make when you’re driving impact more people than you think,” Jordan said. “I would never want to do that to somebody else or have it happen to me. It’s one of the best assemblies I’ve ever seen.”
Mitch Miller, 18, pledged to never drink and drive.
“I’ve never wanted to, and never will. It’s nothing that’s ever appealed to me,” he said. “I thought her story was amazing. It really shows how one decision can change everyone’s life. I can only say, ‘wow.’”
Senior Anaya Wilson was inspired by Marti’s story.
“Natalie’s really brave. It’s such a moving story,” she said. “It’s really inspiring for us to not go off and do something like that.”
Keith Krzyzan, 17, also vowed to never drive impaired.
“Her story shows a good message that there are consequences to drinking and driving,” he said. “It was very sad and touching.”
During Wednesday’s lunch period 184 students signed a pledge banner to not drink and drive during prom next weekend. The banner will be hanging in the commons until after school today.
For more information about Marti, visit www.nataliemarti.com.