Healing the Haumesser and Wolford families
Emma Haumesser, with a picture of her mother, Katie.
Back in February, a terrible thing happened in Cincinnati. A 19 year old kid got drunk, went the wrong way on the highway, and hit another car, killing the driver and severely injuring the driver's young daughter. It was very early in the morning- Emma, the daughter, had an asthma attack, and had been in the emergency room for a few hours. They were on their way home. Jacob had been drinking at a co-worker's house some 20 miles away... and their meeting ended tragically. I've written about this several times, generating TONS of Google hits and comments. Some of those comments (and emails) were from family and friends of the two drivers, Jacob Wolford (the 19 year old), and Katie Haumesser (who was killed).
No story I've ever written has affected me so much because of the personal involvement of the friends and family members on both sides of this story. I've never pulled a post before, but after Jacob's friends became increasingly aggressive toward Katie's friends and family, I removed the posts at the request of the Haumesser family.
When I first sat down to write this story, I was going to include a lot of excerpts from the original posts and comments, but I changed my mind. This isn't about rehashing the past- it's about the future for both families. Jacob's friends and family have told me he is kind, compassionate, caring, of good moral character, and extremely remorseful for Katie's death and Emma's injuries. Katie's friends and family have described her as loving, dedicated, beautiful, friendly, nice, and caring. Notice the similarities? The difference is that one of those people made a horrible decision that ended the life of the other person, and drastically changed the lives of many.
The life most changed? Emma's. Katie's daughter. This was never more apparent than at Jacob's sentencing. Danielle Toft, Katie's best friend, said that "Emma... will go over the accident in her head and say how it must have been her fault. She just says, 'I shouldn't have gone to the hospital.' Or 'I wish I would have died in the accident.' Everyone around her assures her that it wasn't her fault, but she still feels guilty." Emma's Aunt Amy read a letter that Emma wrote about her mother: "Every day I think about her, and I wonder what Jacob thinks about every day. Does he think about my mom and me? Does he think about how he has ruined our lives?"
Wolford, in return, said "I'm truly sorry. There's not a day that goes by when I don't wish I could give my life for the life of Katie's... Emma, I do think about this every day."
Just before handing down the sentence, Emma's grandma spoke up and told the Assistant Prosecutor that Emma has something she wanted to say. "Judge, Emma wants the court and Mr. Wolford to know that she forgives him, but she does not forgive what he did for killing her mother."
Just this weekend I got an email from Jacob's father. In it he tells me that he imagines I'm raising my boys with the same hopes and dreams they had for Jacob, but that 19 year olds don't always make the best decisions. He also told me that if my boys should make such a terrible decision, that he would be there.... offering up prayers of healing for me, my family, and the victim's family, just as they did for the Haumesser's.
In my reply back to Mr. Wolford, I told him that I want the best for my boys too, just like he said, and that I also hoped they wouldn't ever make such a bad decision like Jacob did. I told him that if they did... like him, I would still love my boys, but I would expect them to be punished and publicly admonished for their actions.
The comments most of us have made on this situation center around the facts- not around the emotion or the people involved. I wouldn't feel any differently about this if Katie had been the drunk driver who killed Jacob. Now, if Jacob had a record of drunk driving or other similar offenses, then yes, my thoughts about him would be altered, but he doesn't. However, just because he's "normally" a good guy doesn't excuse killing Katie Haumesser. I'm glad Jacob is Christian, because he will rely heavily upon his faith to forgive himself for his actions. Without forgiveness, there can be no healing. Emma started it... it's up to Jacob to carry it on.
I've thought a lot about this case. It is tragic for everyone involved. Great losses have been felt by everyone involved, from Jacob and Emma, to their family and friends, and the children Katie taught. Throughout the past 6 months, there has been a lot of anger, hurt, frustration, sadness, depression, guilt, name-calling, and regret. Jacob was facing a possible 13 years behind bars, but was sentenced to only 7. He'll be 26 when he gets out of jail but faces a lifetime of regret for one simple decision: the decision to drink and drive.
It's just not worth it, folks. It's just not. There's a saying, Live and Learn, but sometimes someone has to die to teach the hardest lessons of all.
Jacob Wolford, in happier days.
(thanks to John for letting me post a link to this story)