MADD “Sisters”

Tragedy often feels personal and unique, especially something as random as a drunk driving crash, like we are being singled out by the universe.

Yet, four women recently discovered just how similar their losses were after drunk driving upended each of their lives. Each woman lost a father to an impaired driver. Each felt alone and untethered. And, yet, each person discovered a new friendship that led to strength and hope through their shared trauma.

It started on Facebook

Jennifer Zavala’s father was killed by a drugged driver while taking a quick walk during the work day to get his steps in. At first, she didn’t consider MADD an option.

“When they reached out, I wondered why. My father wasn’t killed by a drunk driver,” she said. Quickly, she realized that MADD assists and includes drugged driving as well, so she joined MADD’s victims-only Facebook page.

That’s where she met Aliyah Rudoff from Texas. Jessica Gallant of Massachusetts also visited the page. Quickly, it became apparent that each women suffered a similar loss – a father killed by an impaired driver.

“I could see the pain they were each feeling,” said Jennifer. “It was the same pain I felt.”

Shortly after, Carrie James of Illinois joined the group. Like Jennifer, her father was killed while out walking, just a feet from his own house.

So, they started messaging, talking about work and family and pain and healing. They shared tears. They shared laughter.

“It just clicked,” Jennifer said. “It felt right. It felt like speaking with a sister, although I didn’t know any of these women a few years ago.”

Houston Walk Like MADD

When Aliyah mentioned attending the Houston Walk Like MADD event, the three other women decided it was time to take these relationships offline. They made plans to attend the walk with their “sisters.”

Still, apprehension existed. What if their friendship was only online? What if there were long, drawn-out, awkward pauses?

So, Jennifer stepped off the plane, prepared but eager. And these strangers who had become sisters picked right up where they had left things on Facebook.

“It was a continuation of our last conversation on Messenger,” Jennifer said. “We just picked right up. We hugged and cried and laughed together. Again, we just clicked.”

“We each knew what it was like to lose a dad. It’s a pain I hope others don’t have to experience, but, since my friends had lived what I had lived, I knew they understood me.”

Moving forward

The group plans to get together again and attend other events. Currently, they are working on getting road signs in honor of the dads.

“These are my sisters now,” Jennifer said. “Like a sister, they know me in a way few other people do. I wish they didn’t understand my pain, but I am grateful they are here.”


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