Melissa's Story

Melissa Stegner from MADD's Power of You(th)™ National Teen Influencer Group shares her story for Red Ribbon Week.

Melissa sharing her story at the 2012 MADD National Conference

My name is Melissa Stegner. I'm seventeen and a senior in high school. On December 27th, 2007, I woke up to what I thought would be any other normal day. I was 12 at the time, a seventh grader in middle school. I had told my dad the day before that I would go along with him to drop off my grandmother in Pennsylvania. She had been staying with us in Northern Virginia for our Christmas break. That morning, I was not feeling well and refused to go along on the drive. Instead, my brother Sean, who was 14 at the time, went along to keep my dad company. I remember so clearly, my brother had begged me to go. He told me that I could even choose what movie we were going to watch on the ride there. Yet, I still chose not to go. I often wonder how different things would be if I had decided to get in the car with them that day.

My dad, my mother, Sean, and my grandpa left the house around 9 in the morning. My mother was dropped off at Dulles Airport to make her usual trip as a flight attendant to Japan. Around 12 in the afternoon, they arrived in Hazelton, Pennsylvania and dropped my grandmother off. Soon after, my dad called me to tell me that he and Sean were planning to drive home a different route and go shopping at the outlets. This was the last time I would ever hear my dad’s voice.

Later on that evening around 5pm, there was a ring at the doorbell. My sister went to answer it. She then came into my room crying, hysterically. She told me that Dad had died in car accident. I don't remember clearly what happened after this, but I recall that I had yelled at the police officer. Repeating over and over again, "What about my brother? What about my brother? Is he okay? Is he okay?” I later found out that Sean's body was so badly mangled that the EMTs could not check if he had a pulse or not.

My dad and brother were killed by a repeat drunk driver. Her name was Jennifer Carter. She was 27 and had three DWIs on her record in the span of 10 years. And she had a legal driver’s license by the state of Maryland. Jennifer was killed on impact on the day of the crash.

The realization I have over and over again that my brother won't grow up is not easy. But through my work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Power of You(th) National Teen Influencer Group, I hope that I can save lives and prevent injuries.  By sharing my story, I hope to help my peers understand that their actions have consequences, so that they don’t drink underage and don’t become future offenders.  I’m thankful to MADD and State Farm for giving teens a voice.  I plan on using my voice to make sure that my dad and brother’s deaths help save someone else’s life.