September 27, 2013 was a day like any other. My sister Malak woke up and conducted the same routine before getting ready for work. Something about the day seemed special, and my father, sister and I decided to share lunch together at a restaurant up the street before she had to leave.
In the evening, after work, Malak told my father that she would be going out to visit with some friends. It was a Friday night, but there was something stirring in my father. He asked, “Malak, do you have to go out again? Please stay home tonight.” Malak tried to persuade him that she would be home in no time. He said again, “please stay home.” As she closed the door, Malak turned around and said, “Bye Papa.”
At her friend’s house, the atmosphere was light and happy. Everyone was smiling and sharing stories from the week. It was late, but Malak was having a great time. She couldn’t decide whether she wanted to leave or not. A friend offered her a ride home. The car was full of people, and she stepped in and out of the car twice, debating on whether she wanted to leave or not. I wonder now whether she had a “feeling” that told her not to go. I’ll never know the answer to that question, because Malak got into the car.
The driver, drunk, sped down a small road with five passengers in his car, including my sister. His blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit, and he had marijuana in his system too. He lost control, and careened into a guard rail off of Interstate 5. My sister was killed on impact, along with four other passengers. The car burst into flames, leaving her body beyond recognition.
I couldn’t sleep that night, but I didn’t know why. It was in the early hours of the morning that I received a phone call from my other sister, Hiba. All she could say was, “She’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead.” My life changed permanently from that point on. A week later, I felt like I was living a nightmare, watching my nineteen-year-old sister lowered into the ground. “Why?” I wondered. Then, I looked around. Four hundred people had come to her funeral, the largest crowd the funeral home had ever seen. It was a testament to the love my sister gave to the world, and showed just how loved she was in return.
Pain occurs in all of our lives, but it is how we handle it that makes us who we are. I am determined to end drunk driving, and have been volunteering with MADD ever since my sister’s death to create the change I know we can achieve together. Choosing not to drink and drive is simple, and the loss that we, as a community, face at the hands of drunk drivers is completely avoidable. I ask you to support MADD, which has already saved 300,000 lives as an organization since it began. I ask you to support by taking a stand with your time, and your willingness to share my story in hopes that it will change the behavior of others.
As we come together this holiday season, please remember my family as you share moments with your own. I am thankful for our time together more than ever, and I know you will be too. Moving forward, I hope that you will consider joining me in the fight to end drunk driving so that no angels are taken from us again so soon.
MADD Southern California Volunteer