Seven Years Ago Feels Like Yesterday

What were you doing on December 9th? While many of us were caught up in the hustle of the holiday season, Melissa McNeill was remembering a crash that 7 years ago snuffed out the life of her son, Marky McNeill.

December 9, 2018 was the 7-year anniversary of the day a drugged driver slammed into Melissa’s son, Marky as he crossed a street near their home. She will never forget the fear in her heart when she saw flashing police lights and heard an officer asking her if she knew where her son was.

“Marky was walking his best friend Michael home that night,” Melissa recalls. “Marky was taking forever to come home, and my youngest daughter kept telling me to call them. Finally, I did. One of the calls didn’t go to voicemail. On the other end of the phone, I just heard a commotion of voices and then the line disconnected.”

Melissa looked out the window and noticed police lights flashing down the street. She thought it must be a speeding car being pulled over. But an officer’s knock on her door would soon prove that everything that happened that night was connected in a horrific and life changing way.

Marky and his friend Michael had been crossing a nearby street and a driver under the influence of marijuana slammed into both of them. Michael was killed instantly and Marky was severely injured. After crashing into the boys, the drugged driver sped away. A witness later told police that he saw the driver looking at the crash in his rear-view mirror. He knew what he had done. Later that night, the driver ditched the car that he had borrowed from his girlfriend. As he walked away from it, he called his girlfriend to tell her to report the car stolen. He tried to get away with it, but as he walked along the road, he was apprehended and jailed.

That night at the hospital, the doctors told Melissa that Marky’s brain was showing no signs of activity and that the impact had severely damaged his internal organs. Marky died the next day, on December 10, 2011 surrounded by his close friends and family. Melissa will always remember that day as the most painful day of her life.

“When someone dies like that, it’s not like the movies,” Melissa said. “It’s not peaceful. It’s violent and traumatic to watch.”

Soon after that, they went to court. Melissa credits her MADD advocate for supporting them from that moment on. Even today, she continues to check on Melissa and her family. After a long, drawn out court case, the drugged driver was sentenced to prison and is now serving the first life sentence for drugged driving in Delaware County.

A Family Left Behind

But no matter how many life sentences this driver serves it will never make any of this easier for Melissa or Marky’s three siblings. Nothing will ever make it hurt less to remember the amazing person Marky was. Before he was killed, Marky McNeill was an especially talented young man.

“He could play literally any sport he wanted to try his hand at,” Melissa recalls. “He just couldn’t decide which sport he wanted to do in college—because he was good at them all!”

Melissa also remembers him as the comedian of their household. He could make anyone laugh. This came in handy as he always wanted to make everyone feel included. If new kids moved into the neighborhood, Marky was the first to invite them to play with him and his friends. He never wanted anyone to feel left out.

And now, Marky’s the one who is left out. He can never attend any New Year’s party with his family, and will never be able to celebrate Christmas with them. And every December 9th, instead of hearing his jokes, his family can only remember them.

Melissa knows the worst pain any parent can ever experience – the death of a child who means the world to you. In this painful season, Melissa has only one message for everyone: “Don’t drive under the influence of anything. We talk a lot about the dangers of drunk driving, but drugged driving is also a danger. Drugs didn’t kill Marky, but someone choosing to selfishly drive under the influence did.”

Melissa McNeill will always miss Marky on December 9. And every day of the year, she will remember him. You can join her in remembering him too today and every other day by spreading the message that driving under the influence of anything is dangerous and unacceptable.